Unite union sells Arriva dispute in Wales
On Monday, the Unite union made another fraudulent “victory” claim, this time on the issue of pay equity for bus drivers after forcing another deal with the company. After voting 95% in favor of a five-week strike last month, drivers in Arriva Wales had their strike suspended for two weeks to vote on a deal recommended by Unite.
The deal, which was struck with an indefinite margin when it was clear Unite would not negotiate anything better, leaves intact the regional divisions used by bus operators to drive down wages and terms.
Unite’s press release celebrating the deal is dishonest from start to finish. The only information reads: “The new agreement achieves Unite’s goal of securing an hourly rate of £ 12 per hour for its members. “
The fact that drivers will only benefit from this tariff in April of next year is left out. Wrexham Journal The leader reported full details of the pay rise, which involves a backdated increase from £ 11.30 to £ 10.40 between January 2021 and March 2021, then a rate of £ 11.64 until the rate of £ 12 is reached in April 2022.
During his two-year tenure, the deal translates into a 3.05% year-on-year salary increase, barely above the 3% deal imposed on Arriva North West after Unite repeatedly blocked strike actions. The admission that the £ 12 rate was that of Unite goal is damning, given that the union has repeatedly implied that it is fighting for pay parity between drivers in Arriva in Wales and in the region of North West England, where the rate of base is around £ 13.50.
In November Unite said: ‘Welsh workers are unwilling to accept lower terms than their colleagues in other parts of the UK.
Drivers have responded enthusiastically to a fight for pay equity, leaving comments on social media and recounting World Socialist Website reporters that they support a national rate of pay for bus drivers. Unite posted a speech by a Labor MP on their social media pages and highlighted the quote: ‘It just cannot be fair that workers in Wales are paid less and made to work longer hours than their counterparts just across the border in England. Yet this is exactly what the new deal perpetuates!
The deal sets out Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham’s assertion in November that she would negotiate real wage increases, when she wrote “makes it a CPI-level wage deal [Consumer Price Index inflation] is a drop in wages in real terms.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the CPI inflation is 3.8% when housing costs are included, so the deal reached by Unite is not at the level of l ‘CPI, but below and well below retail price index (RPI) inflation of 6%.
The different working conditions within the Arriva groups were also left untouched by the agreement, which only concerns wages. In the comments to ITV News, a Unite official reported that drivers in Arriva North West have a 37-hour week, while drivers in Wales work 39 hours. A former Arriva driver slammed the deal on Facebook for leaving Arriva Wales drivers without payment at the time and a quarter on Saturday, which is paid all day at Arriva North West.
The former driver was attacked by Unite’s regional manager, Jo Goodchild, who replied: “[W]hat a full load of nonsense. Please don’t get involved in issues you have no knowledge of. She went on to say that “you are no longer employed by Arriva so do not form part of the aspirations of the members which have been conveyed to me”, as if the workers had request to receive a lower inflation increase and to remain in worse conditions than other drivers of the same company.
Another poster summed up Goodchild’s argument as “you don’t pay subscribers anymore, so shut it down”.
The former driver himself responded by pointing to the many comments from current Arriva Wales drivers who said they were struggling to be paid the same as drivers in England and posted a video of a representative from Wrexham Unite making the same request.
Many more have taken to social media to criticize the deal and support pay equity among bus drivers. Under the news articles about the end of the strike, comments included: “Unless it’s equal pay, you’ve sold yourself” and “Still a poor wage offer given inflation and pressure. future of the IN [national insurance contribution] increases. One article explained that, as workers need extra cash as Christmas approaches, “the sweetener [about £575 in back pay] As Christmas approaches, that deal has likely been made. These are buttons.
Other articles pointed out that it was not just Unite selling workers, but all unions. Reflecting sales of bus drivers by Unite, GMB and the Union of Rail, Sea and Transport Workers (RMT), one commentator wrote: “Sold downstream again by the unions”.
One of them spoke about the experiences of masses of workers: “I guess the union bureaucrats made a shitty deal with their fellow bosses that the drivers were pressured to accept” and concluded that ” the unions are not our friends, they are friends of gaffers, just mini-gaffers themselves and also in suits, that WE pay like everything with our work ”.
There is no such blatant clearance sale, and no rate of pay so stingy, that Unite will not celebrate it as a “win”. Graham announced a “huge victory” last month after ending a 17-day strike at Stagecoach South Wales with a new pay rate of £ 10.50 an hour. In October, Unite issued a press release announcing that it was “determined to eliminate low wages for bus workers once and for all.” That same version boasted of a pay deal whereby Stagecoach drivers at Gilmoss depot in Liverpool received a 2.25% raise and a new rate of £ 9.50 per hour for cleaners, exactly the minimum wage advertised in the Conservative government’s budget two weeks later.
Unite may be winning, but not for the workers. Unions have long fought for the interests of employers against those of their members, working hard in every conflict to demonstrate their value in preventing worker anger from damaging profits.
Despite Graham’s promise of “no more blank checks” for the Labor Party, telling workers not to take any independent action remains a key part of Unite’s anti-worker strategy. Unite’s announcement that it had achieved all of its targets was accompanied by a call on the Labor-led Welsh government to ‘introduce a system of sectoral bargaining’. Unite goes on to say, “With this we can work to end the continuing race to the bottom that has driven pay rates down over the years.” These same unions and the Labor Party have accepted the artificial division of wages and working conditions of bus workers between companies and regions for decades.
It was only with the help of the unions that the bus companies were saved from the wrath of workers whose lives and those of their families were threatened in the name of corporate profits. The phrase “I worked during the pandemic and got nothing” is on the minds of millions of people, while companies like Arriva brag about increases income due to government donations. This anger must find conscious expression through the creation of new organizations linking bus workers across companies in a struggle for improved wages and safety conditions at all levels.