21 Feb 2012

South Yorkshire victory: more details

by George Arthur  
Striking bus workers in Barnsley and Rawmarsh have won a significant victory in their battle over low pay with Stagecoach. Drivers voted on Friday of last week to accept a new offer of a pay rise to £9.05 an hour plus £130 back pay. They are members of the Unite union.
After 12 strike days, massive picket lines and a march through Barnsley town centre, Stagecoach was forced to grant concessions it said would never happen. The previous offer did not include back pay. It also involved a number of strings that would have removed benefits from drivers. These strings have since been withdrawn. 

Just a few weeks ago management insisted there would never be any back pay—because the funds had gone to pay scabs instead. The drivers had originally been demanding a 26p an hour rise to £9 an hour. Stagecoach responded by spending vast sums on hiring scab drivers from across Britain on strike days. 
Some 251 drivers voted to accept the new offer, an overwhelming majority. But 35 drivers voted against. This is a clear warning to Stagecoach that negotiations in future will not be a pushover. 

The strike has built strong union branches. Tony Rushforth is a Unite branch secretary at the Barnsley depot. He said, “I am very proud of the members who refused to give in and who stood solid to the end.” He added, “I would also like to express my gratitude to all those who supported us through this strike—Barnsley trades council and all the other union branches who made donations. “All this amounts to some fantastic demonstrations of solidarity. Thank you all—we will never forget what you have all done.”


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