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Building support amongst passengers and other trade unionists for the bus workers strike at First will be vital - photo Iain Dalton

Building support amongst passengers and other trade unionists for the bus workers strike at First will be vital – photo Iain Dalton

Text of a leaflet Socialist Party members will be using to build support for the bus workers. At time of publication Unite had called off Tuesday’s strikes on the basis of new talks, which are due to go ahead on the basis of the reinstatement of the sacked drivers.

Bus drivers in Leeds are on the verge of all-out strike action, originally due to start on 26th July, in their ongoing dispute with First over a pay increase.

Over the last few weeks First have ramped up their attempts to break the strike, sacking the Unite branch secretary and two other workers, as well as giving 11 other workers a final written warning. These follow suspensions in relation to postings on social media, but in reality this is an attempt to cower workers and their union into submission.

The whole trade union movement must now rally around the bus workers. An important step in building wider support would be for the Unite branch at First, alongside Leeds TUC, and other local trade unions, to call a public demonstration in support of the strike.

First Bus – mega profits for the bosses

This after a dispute which formally is about the dating of this years pay rise, an amount which will total much less than a £1m to settle in full and backdate it to the start of the financial year, yet First have insisted in making drivers wait for part of the pay rise. This at a time when First have made over £114m profits worldwide (a 7% increase) of which over £11m was generated in Leeds.

As Socialist Party members have pointed out from the offset, in a period a little over a year First has been forced by strike action in Bradford and Huddersfield to make concessions to their workers. Clearly they have decided wish no more claims for decent pay on what they see as their profits.

Co-ordinate action to beat the union-busters!

This follows a pattern across the country where bus drivers are in dispute with the company at places as far apart as Glasgow and Weymouth, and recently Unite have announced ballots of workers at First across the rest of Yorkshire. This will involve 4,000 workers in Bradford, Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Rotherham, Sheffield and York.

Given First’s previous strike breaking tactics of bringing in managers from other areas to run the limited services they have provided on strike days in Leeds so far, then it is vital that these disputes are not allowed to be picked off individually. Action should be co-ordinated across these disputes to demand full trade union rights and recognition, alongside a decent pay across the company with higher unified rates of pay.

Big businesses like First will always prioritise their profits over all else. That’s why its vitally necessary the campaign for public ownership of public transport is stepped up. Under a system of workers democratic control and management, involving reps from local unions and passengers, services could be planned to meet community needs whilst paying staff involved a real living wage.

We say:
* No to victimisation – drop the final written warnings and reinstate the sacked workers
* Build support for the strike – organise support groups involving local trade unionists and passengers
* Co-ordinate action with other bus workers across Yorkshire for decent pay for all
* Take transport off the profiteers – renationalise the busses as part of an integrated publicly owned transport system