Socialist Alternative

Victory! Manchester bus drivers defeat fire and rehire

FIRE AND REHIRE ENDS HERE!

Manchester bus drivers have won their dispute with Go North West over fire and rehire. 

The contracts which drivers were forced to sign, under threat of being sacked and without union representation, are torn up after nine weeks of strike action.  The Go Ahead bus group have made a commitment to never use fire and rehire anywhere in the world – without this undertaking they might never land a lucrative contract in Sweden, where the practice is illegal.

During the dispute a number of drivers were sacked or placed on disciplinary warnings on trumped-up charges, usually related to social media posts.  Sacked drivers are re-instated and all disciplinary action is dropped.

This is a huge climbdown for the company and a massive victory for the drivers over fire and rehire.  As such it will be an inspiration to the whole trade union movement which needs to be shouting about it from the roof tops:  the juggernaut of fire and rehire has been dealt a colossal blow.  The directors at other bus companies like Stagecoach and Diamond, who were watching this dispute like hawks and planning doubtless to do the same as Go NW, are in for a miserable May Day weekend!  Bosses in every sector, who thought that British Gas had shown they could ride roughshod over organised workers, will now be more nervous.

Unite has a big opportunity for a major recruitment drive among transport workers in the private sector, including drivers at local coach companies some of which provided the rogue replacement services to undermine the strike.

There is much which is unclear at the time of writing and which drivers will want to examine closely, potentially including sick pay and rotas. Drivers will be confident after defeating fire and rehire that they can defend conditions and rostering against an employer no doubt suffering a bad case of sour grapes and still wanting to boost profits at workers’ expense.

For now, the strike continues until the details are clarified and prove acceptable.  But on the major principle of fire and rehire the drivers have already won.  They will lead the May Day March on Monday 3 May with heads held high, and Manchester will celebrate their victory.  As Socialist Alternative put it in our latest (no.5) leaflet to drivers: Fire and Rehire Ends Here!