Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 18, June 5, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Manchester Bus Drivers Declare Victory over Fire and Rehire

Striking bus drivers in Manchester voted to accept a negotiated deal on May 17, ending their 85-day strike, the longest in the history of their union, Unite.

The fact that employers Go North West were forced to accept the condition that they will never use fire and rehire in any form makes this a significant victory for the drivers, and of importance for all workers.

"This is a tremendous victory by Unite's members at Go North West who, through their dedication, solidarity and commitment, have defeated the attempt to fire and rehire them," said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey. "I pay tribute to them, sustaining a strike during the challenge of lockdown, and thank this incredible community for their brilliant support through these long weeks which definitely helped keep heads held high."

Over 400 drivers began all-out, continuous strike action on February 28, standing their ground against and finally overcoming a campaign of intimidation on the one hand and disinformation on the other.

The belligerent stand of the company was to refuse to accommodate the interests and demands of its workers to any degree, and sought simply to impose its dictate.

Working time was to increase by what Unite calculated as some 130 hours over the course of a year. The amount of additional unpaid work equated to £2,500 per year per driver. Furthermore, existing sick pay policy, being revised, meant a 67% cut in sick pay for workers with over five years' service.

To achieve this blatant violation of the claims of its workers, the employer attempted to tear up long-agreed contracts of employment under the increasingly prevalent method of "fire and rehire".

Imposing "fire and rehire" is part and parcel of the anti-social offensive, where a general disequilibrium exists in the social relation between those who work and those who employ them, the owners and controllers of business and the economy as a whole.

This victory highlights and opens the way towards appreciating the need for a new coherence and arrangements amongst the people, the socialised economy and the state. Workers must be able to maintain their current collective bargaining arrangements. What is required is for working people to constitute a new kind of authority where they speak in their own name and are empowered to restrict the rights of the monopolies, allowing them to set the terms in establishing an equilibrium in their favour and in favour of society. To achieve this requires strengthening the workers' independent outlook and organisation, as part of building their resistance.

Workers' Weekly wholeheartedly congratulates the Manchester bus drivers on their important victory!

For previous coverage and analysis, see:
"Go Ahead Spy on Striking Manchester Bus Drivers", Workers' Weekly, March 6, 2021
"Bus Drivers' Strike and Actions Continue", Workers' Weekly, April 17, 2021

Further Struggles in the Fight against Fire and Rehire

Unite members working for Jacobs Douwe Egberts have begun striking over fire and rehire.

Counterfire reports that members of GMB at the XPO Logistics depot in Bellshill are balloting for industrial action over plans to cut 47 team managers from a key bargaining group, which is being seen as a step towards implementing fire and rehire. The depot services 54 Scottish Morrisons supermarkets.

Meanwhile, engineers at Weetabix' Kettering and Corby factories have voted for strike action over fire and rehire, reports Union News, after the firm issued the engineers with new contracts and work patterns, which will result in major cuts in shift allowances. There will also be a move to require more day working than shift working, further contributing to the cut in pay. Some engineers are said be facing a loss of up to £5,000 per year. The Unite members will take part in a series of one day strikes during June, July and August.

Union News also reports that Unite members working for Jacobs Douwe Egberts have begun striking over fire and rehire. New contracts being imposed by the company could mean some workers lose up to £12,000 annually. 291 workers at the firm's Banbury site who refused to sign the new contracts were subsequently dismissed. Workers have so far staged one 72-hour and two 24-hour strikes. A continuous overtime ban has also been in place since May 1.


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