Bus workers striking against low pay, poor industrial relations and anti-union actions by their employer, Oxford Bus Company, were joined on Monday (March 6) on the picket line by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
McCluskey attended the demonstration in a show of solidarity with union members, warning that, unless the issue of poor wages was addressed and facility time to undertake union duties was restored, then the dispute could be spread across the Go Ahead group.
Monday’s action was the second 24-hour strike by the workers who are angered by the company’s intransigent stance on the issue of pay and by the hostility to their union displayed by the local management.
Commenting after joining the striking workers on the picket line, Len McCluskey said, “It was tremendous to see working men and women standing together for decent treatment. That is always how workers have won any advances, by sticking together in solidarity.
“I sincerely hope that the Oxford Bus Company pays heed to the incredible resolution of Unite’s members,” he said. “They are in no mood to roll over, and they know that they have the full support of their union in their corner.
“It gave me great pride to announce today that Unite will double the rate of strike pay for the workers so that they can fight for fair treatment without the fear of being starved back to work.
“I also had the opportunity to meet with the managing director of Oxford Buses, Phil Southall, to reiterate that this union will not tolerate the mistreatment of its members. Thankfully, some sense has prevailed and he assured me union recognition will be restored.
“However, unless the company restores facility time and starts treating our members with respect I will have no option to take this dispute to every Go Ahead depot in the country.”
Len McCluskey also confirmed that the company will be meeting with Unite shop stewards to take forward Oxford Bus Company’s promise to restore recognition.
The dispute centres on the failure of the company to enter into any meaningful talks on the annual pay award for the year starting 1 November 2016 and the failure to adequately compensate the whole workforce for Christmas/new year working.
Unite has nearly 450 members at the company, including drivers, maintenance staff and admin workers. The union has said that it was available for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas at any time.
The company, part of the highly profitable Go Ahead Group, gained unwelcome publicity in December, after ‘Scrooge’ bosses refused to pay drivers extra for working on two legally recognised bank holidays over the festive season which meant individual drivers lost £100-a-day.