A nine-week long strike by bus drivers has forced Go North West to back down from a plan to impose new contracts via “fire and rehire”. Drivers who were sacked or disciplined for social media posts during the dispute will also be reinstated and have disciplinary sanctions dropped.
Although the details of the settlement are yet to be finalised, this appears to be a significant victory and a testament to the resolve of the workers involved in launching determined, indefinite strike action. For now, drivers are rightly continuing their strikes until a settlement is agreed. Activists say that Go North West’s commitment to back away from “fire and rehire” was also affected by the company’s involvement in a bid for a contract in Sweden, where the practice is illegal.
With an ongoing employers’ offensive around “fire and rehire” tactics still underway, and with British Gas have succeeded in using the method to impose new contracts on its staff, sacking around 500 engineers in the process, the Go North West win represents a significant counter-blow for the working class. Drivers will need to remain mobilised, and possibly take further action, to resist the introduction of worse terms via other means.
Unite has launched a national political campaign demanding “fire and rehire” tactics be made illegal, with its members holding workplaces demonstrations and other activities at locations across the country. This is a positive move, in a context in which too few unions conduct any political campaigning at all to complement their industrial demands. However, Unite’s message is severely undermined by the fact that, in British Gas, the site of the most high-profile dispute against fire and rehire thus far, it agreed to the bosses’ new contracts and scabbed on GMB members’ strikes, signing a sweetheart deal offering more facility time for its own reps. British Gas engineers report that Unite members wanted to oppose the contracts and join the GMB’s dispute, but were overruled by union officials, including Howard Beckett, who claims to be a “left” candidate for the Unite general secretary position.
In London, Unite suspended strikes by drivers at London United, a subsidiary of French firm RATP, due for Monday 26 April, after the employer made a new pay offer. The union has also given Metroline, one of the biggest bus companies in London, a 10 May deadline to fully withdraw a plan to impose remote booking-on procedures. Imposition was paused after London Mayor Sadiq Khan ordered a moratorium, but Metroline bosses have yet to formally scrap the plan. Metroline workers have voted by a 96% majority to strike.