First Cymru bus strike

Drivers and engineers strike for a pay rise without strings

Bus services in Swansea, Port Talbot and Carmarthenshire were devastated by a one day strike for a decent pay rise without strings by drivers and engineers at First Cymru Bus. They had voted to reject an offer of 5% over 15 months despite it being recommended by UNITE full time officials.

“In effect we would have to pay for our own pay rise” a picket at Swansea bust station explained, because there were so many strings attached. “We would have to hit targets to get an increased rate. And new starters would get much lower pay”.

Picket scoffed at management claims, repeated in the media, that drivers could earn as much as £27,000 a year. “Only one driver ever reached that level and he had to work six days a week all year, barely this side of legal”. Drivers are paid £8 an hour to do a difficult and stressful job and some drivers do not even reach the £20,000 minimum claimed by First.

Many drivers are not happy that the union recommended acceptance of a deal that was clearly rejected by members.

Hanging over the dispute is the threat posed by Green Road, “Its a management plan to monitor every movement of the driver acceleration, braking etc supposedly to prevent emissions but it will be used to crack down on the drivers”.

As usual, the BBC tried to undermine the strike repeating company claims that on the strike day that there was a “nearly normal” bus service in Swansea. In reality the company was forced to use managers from as far as Bristol to drive buses and all they could achieve was a service for the school contracts and the park and ride.

Despite the disruption to services and the usual media distortions of the dispute, public support for the strikers is high as this report from a Socialist Party member in Llanelli indicates:

“It was the first strike action of it’s type in 8 years and was a new experience for many of the users of First Cymru buses. However the response was tremendous. I work at a local supermarket and many of my colleagues use the bus to travel to and from work, myself included, but despite the strike meaning they had to make other plans they supported the drivers and understood their decision with comments like, ‘Good for them’ and ‘They deserve a decent wage’.

“Whilst travelling on the buses before the strike I informed the drivers that I support them in taking strike action was pleased to hear I wasn’t the first person to do so, passengers in the area are worried about a worsening bus service as letters in the local paper have shown recently and they believe that the workers taking a stand against the bus company can arrest this decline.
“On the day itself the striking workers made Socialist Party members feel most welcome on their picket lines and were happy of our support. The overall response to the strike gave me a real lift as I’m sure it did to the workers on strike and in the lead up to and fight for a general strike this is great news indeed.”