10/10/2009 - Strike on First buses?

The First Group is a massive transnational company.  It describes itself as the “world's leading transport operator”.  The figures are certainly impressive.  It employs around 136,000 staff throughout the UK and North America and transport more than 2.5 billion passengers a year.  Its annual revenue is over £6 billion.

It is certainly Britain's largest bus operator.  Over a fifth of all local bus services are run by First Group. A fleet of nearly 9,000 buses carries 3 million passengers a day in more than 40 major towns and cities.

However, its work force is far from happy.  The company is refusing to pay even a cost of living increase.  Bus drivers are particularly hard hit.  It appears that strike action may be just around the corner.

Solidarity General Secretary Patrick Harrington said:

 “First Group PLC made £200m profit before tax in March of this year.  It also appears that there’s been a 15 per cent bonanza for shareholders for each of the last five years. 

At the same time jobs have been slashed.  Fair pay raises have been refused – in fact First Trust appears to want to impose a national pay freeze.  And workers claim that terms and conditions have got worse.

Bus workers' pay has dropped since deregulation and privatisation.  With all this in mind is it any wonder that support for strike action is growing?”

Four 24-hour stoppages have been staged in the last few weeks.  Solidarity also understands that drivers at Bury, Bolton and Wigan bus depots will take part in a further strikes on 12th, 19th and 26th October. 

Pat Harrington of Solidarity continued:

“It’s looking increasingly likely that there will be national strike on the buses.  First Trust workers are really angry at the treatment they’ve received.  The bosses seem to have decided that the recession means that bus workers no long erneed to have pay increases! Yet prices are not falling and bills are still coming in!

At the same time, we’re being told in the media that the era of fat-cats and boardroom bonuses are over.  Yet First Trust shareholders are being awarded a dividend rise.  This increase has happened for the last five years.

We now have a situation where there are bonuses for the shareholders –yet misery for the bus workers.  Where’s the justice in that?”