Students from Manchester Universities joined First Manchester bus drivers on Friday in a strike over pay.
The event, called “Boycott First on the First”, saw students show solidarity with First bus drivers from the Rusholme depot, who have been striking since October.
The drivers are taking action over their difference in pay with drivers from the Queens Road First depot.
A driver from the Rusholme depot, who wished to remain unnamed, said ” All we’ve asked for is fair pay. There’s a bus depot down the road, less than three miles away, where the drivers are on £12.10 an hour.
“This equates to £95 a week more that they are being paid than us, for all the same terms and conditions, hours and routes. All we’ve ever asked for is to be treated equally.”
Leah Millward, one of the students involved in the Boycott First campaign and present at Fridays strike, said: “Students living in Fallowfield see the bus drivers on strike everyday, so everyone’s aware of the strikes. We’re trying to get other students to stop using First Buses, because that’s the best way to make First realise they need to pay their drivers equally, if they suddenly see a drop in revenue.”
Since the bus drivers starting striking in November, students from the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University have implored other students to boycott any First buses through putting flyers up around campus.
Also at the strike were members of grass roots political activist group Momentum.
Alice, a member of Momentum present at the strike said: “One of our main goals this year is to support more industrial action in the City of Manchester. The First Bus strike is industrial action we were interested in, because a lot of students use buses in Manchester, and there’s a lot of students in our organisation so we wanted to make them aware of ways that they can support the bus drivers on strike through avoiding these buses.”
Despite the presence of political activists, Leah said that students being at the strike wasn’t anything political. “We are here to support the bus drivers, its a small scale thing, they just need equal pay in this area on this street.”
First Manchester have stated that they have no plans to give drivers from the Rusholme depot a higher pay offer and have implored them to accept the offer made.
Phil Medlicott, Managing director of First Manchester said: ““We remain extremely disappointed that staff from one of our depots are continuing to strike, but I’d like to reassure customers that we will continue to operate services from our Rusholme depot.
“We are doing everything we can to resolve the situation, but I have stressed to Unite the Union that, following extensive negotiations since April, the situation has remained unchanged since our final offer at the start of October; an offer which was recommended by them.
“We already have over 30 drivers who have returned to work at Rusholme and I’d urge all staff who are still involved with the strike to think about the impact this is having on their friends and families and to return to work.”