UK bus workers’ determined strike at Arriva North West continues, as GMB union declares for “compromise”

Around 1,800 UK bus workers at Arriva North West are continuing their all-out strike for a pay increase to meet the rising cost of living. The strike began on July 20 and is into its third week.

Strikers on the picket line at Arriva North West at the Wythenshawe depot in Manchester [Photo: WSWS]

While workers are determined to fight on, the GMB union has indicated it is ready to secure a sellout deal with the company. At the same time, Unite has sabotaged a growing strike wave of bus workers by opposing unified, collective action.

The GMB and Unite union members work at 11 garages across the north west of England, including Birkenhead, Bolton, Bootle, Liverpool, Macclesfield, Manchester, Runcorn, Southport, Speke, St Helens, and Winsford.

Workers voted by an overwhelming 96 percent on a 72 percent turnout to reject the company’s initial offer of either 3 percent, or 6 percent with strings. A further 8.5 percent offer was rejected without a ballot as being substantially below inflation, currently at 11.8 percent RPI. The Bank of England predicts even the lower CPI inflation rate will rise to 13 percent in the last three months of this year from its current 9.4 percent—the highest level for 42 years—and will remain “very elevated” in 2023.

In a July 29 press release, GMB Organizer Robert Marnell said, “[T]he GMB stands ready to talk when all parties are ready to get round the table and compromise… These workers are struggling to make ends meet—Arriva needs to recognize that and make them an offer that helps them cope with the cost of living crisis.”

The GMB soon states it will “compromise”, which means settling for a below inflation deal they can sell to their members, on the basis that it is the best that can be achieved. But to cope with the rising cost of living—including average energy bills for the average household predicted to soar past £3,000 in the autumn and rising mortgage rates—the working class must demand wage rises index linked to the cost of living, and backdated to include compensation for the erosion of real terms pay since 2008.

World Socialist Web Sitereporters spoke to striking bus workers on the picket line outside bus depots in Liverpool, and Wythenshawe in Manchester.

Strikers expressed their concerns about the cost of living, and how to take their struggle forward.

In Liverpool, driver John declared, “If it carries on the way it is, it’s only going one way. Everyone’s going to be in dire straits, if things keep going up.