Solidarity needed at Badgerline

Steve Argent, one of the workers sacked from the Badgerline bus company in Chelmsford, reports on the progress of the dispute

THE POLICE are doing the best they can to stop us running the free bus service, which at least shows to us that the company is being affected. We have introduced two bigger buses and have 11 running altogether now. The buses are still full and we are still collecting donations from the public.

We are having regular public meetings in Chelmsford which are well attended. We have also been around the country to other Badgerline companies, asking workers to refuse to discuss any changes in working conditions until the Chelmsford workers are reinstated.

Everyone is facing longer hours. A survey in a Leeds Badgerline depot showed that 25% of sick leave was due to stress-related illness because of the increased workload, which is sometimes 15-20% more than it was two years ago. We are being well received, but it is difficult to get pledges of physical support.

Bus drivers obviously work in isolation, so communication is difficult. Some came down to work in Chelmsford being told that it was just a chronic shortage in staff.

We need that extra push to win this dispute but, although other Badgerline workers are very angry, they are looking over their shoulder all the time.

We can’t win this on our own, but the leadership of the union has to take a lead. Sooner or later someone has to say, ‘Sod the law’, otherwise the unions might as well pack up and go home.

The other choice facing us is to actually run our own company. But then you become a capitalist yourself, and we wouldn’t be big enough to stand up to Stagecoach-type tactics.

It is the same for everybody in every sphere of work - until you get to the directors of course - and it will be the same until the unions are unshackled from the law.

The trouble is I can’t see any change from a Labour government.