FIRST Manchester bus drivers have been striking since the beginning of October due to being paid 23 per cent less than other depots in Manchester.
Around 70 drivers who belong to Unite at First Manchester Rusholme Depot say they are earning nearly £5,000 less a year than their colleagues at the Queens Road depot in North Manchester.
An executive member of the union who wished not to be named said: “We’ve not asked for anything more than anybody else, all we’ve asked for is the same. We’re less than five miles away from Queens Road, now these gentlemen are on £12.10 an hour and we’re only on £9.05. That’s a difference of 23 per cent which is roughly around £95 a week, that’s nearly £4,500 a year.”
“This company made over £3 million profit last year and now they are telling us they can’t pay us what we’re asking for.”
The strikes have been active for the past nine weeks, starting at just one day a week and continuing to three.
The public have been supporting the strikes although it may have been an inconvenience to them.
Unite’s Regional Officer, Neil Clarke, said: “A strike like this can go either way in terms of public perception but we found the public have very much switched onto the injustice that lies behind the dispute and have been very supportive.”
The trade dispute was officially registered on the 17th September but the first day of strike action was on Monday 2nd October.
Mr Clarke added that the aim of the strike action is to end the disparity in earnings between bus drivers feeding the city from the south and the bus drivers working for First Manchester feeding the city from the north.
‘There is absolutely no justification for it’ as First Manchester cannot put forward a moral or ethical justification as to why they can’t pay Rusholme workers the same.
Mr Clarke said: “If you stand in Piccadilly Gardens and watch buses driving in from Oldham and Queens Road, those drivers that have been there for two years are earning £12.10 an hour, more than the drivers from this depot who are earning nearly £5,000 less a year.
“The feeling of exploitation is driving these people, who haven’t been on strike for decades, to take the drastic action which is to strike.
“They’ve reached the end of their tether and at the end of the day you either accept the principle of inequality and injustice or you reach a point where you say no enough is enough.
“At the end of the day workers get up in the morning and hope to go about their normal day to day activity without any kind of disruption. Striking isn’t normal, it is an extraordinary desperate measure. We want fairness, we want equity and, we want to work.”
There are further strikes planned for this Friday (30th), next Monday (4th), Wednesday (6th) and Friday (1st).