Rival buses hit home

Bus drivers in Chelmsford, sacked in November 1994, forced Badgerline into a settlement after running their own rival buses. Steve Argent, one of the sacked drivers, talked to us about the lessons of the dispute

BADGERLINE workers have agreed to a settlement with the Eastern National bus company which gives them £400 for every year of service. Anyone who wants their job back will be re-employed in return for the ending of the action by the Transport and General Workers Union, including the withdrawal of the bus service run by the union. The vote to accept the settlement was 80% in favour.

The settlement also came in response to the merger with First Bus. The chief executive of First Bus told the press that because he needed his drivers to vote for the merger he would sort out our dispute in Chelmsford.

The running of our own buses definitely had an effect on the company which originally only offered us £150 in settlement. This is a new weapon which can be used by others, especially busworkers, since deregulation has opened up companies to such pressure. Companies will certainly be more wary of taking on the union now they have seen what we can do.

It is a veiled victory for the strikers themselves - it is a compromise package, but it is a major victory for the union movement in today’s climate. Continuing attacks will carry on as long as we don’t take a stand and challenge the anti-trade union laws.

For four months the company refused to talk to us - they thought the sacking was the end of the story. But our buses started to hit their pockets, so they had to talk to us. I think it gives not only busworkers but all workers food for thought and confidence in our ability to beat intransigent employers.