|A large contingent turned out to march up to the Go North West bus garage in solidarity with the striking drivers, reports Martin Hall
Today’s May Day march from Piccadilly Gardens up to the Go North West bus garage at Queen’s Road in Cheetham Hill took place in the wind and the rain – but the atmosphere was still jubilant and militant, as people braved the elements to celebrate May Day and show solidarity with the strikers, who were leading the march.
Manchester Trades Council and Manchester May Day Festival organised the march, but many different groups took part, including Manchester People’s Assembly Against Austerity, the PCS Samba band, XR, CND, the YCL, Momentum, Acorn and, of course, Unite the Union, with the bus drivers front and centre.
Every scab bus that drove past was booed and every supporting car tooted its horn, took leaflets and wanted to know why we were out on the streets.
After the march reached the bus garage, we assembled in the adjacent field, where a rally took place. There were even stalls, despite the rain.
A variety of speakers took the floor including Colin Hayden, Unite convenor and lead rep at the garage; Neil Clarke, Regional Political Office for Unite in the NW; Rebecca Long-Bailey MP and Kallum Nolan, co-convenor of Manchester People’s Assembly, who proudly described Manchester’s long history of radicalism.Colin detailed the offer put on the table by the management and made the point that there had been premature reports on social media regarding a victory.
After 10 weeks of industrial action, the threat of fire and rehire has been removed, the fire and rehire contract made null and void and the two sacked drivers can be reinstated, though the bus drivers remain on strike at this time and will do so until it is signed.
As Colin and Rebecca both said, bus drivers are key workers, and have been in the firing line during the pandemic. This makes the way the management tried to treat the bus drivers even more disgraceful. Rebecca also made the point that even the Tories say fire and rehire is wrong – but they do nothing to stop it being used as a tactic.
And it wasn’t just the dispute that was focused upon: the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which has seen such a nationwide wave of resistance, most recently two days ago, was also roundly condemned.
But perhaps the most important point of all was made by both Kallum Nolan and Neil Clarke: the solidarity and power built by this action at the bus garage needs to be the start of resistance to the Tories and the bosses, not the end.
Trade unionists and activists can’t put their feet up as and when any victory is declared in Cheetham Hill. We need to get more of us on the streets, more people in unions and more solidarity in the struggles ahead.