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Busmen Fight Fare Rises

(April 1977)

From Militant, No. 353, 29 April 1977, p. 4.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As part of the 21st of April National Campaign and day of action against fare increases and cuts in services, East Sussex busmen lobbied County Hall, Lewes.

During the preceding week they had taken their case to the public by leafleting in the main shopping areas. The response was overwhelming. In two days in Brighton alone 2,300 leaflets had been signed and returned, pledging support for the busmen’s case, including one with a pound note from an old age pensioner.

They have also been given offers of support from shop stewards’ in the factories, pensioners’ organisations, tenants’ associations, Labour Parties, Coops, Trades Council, “Transport 2,000” and others. Some members of the taxi men’s branch have raised the question of the local authority owning and operating their taxis as part of a planned transport system.

Brighton busmen now have an elected rank and file campaign committee whose job will be to bring to the attention of the general public what further cutbacks will mean and to plan further action to save and improve services. As a number of busmen on the lobby put it: “This must not be seen as letting off steam, but the start of a massive national campaign.”

The busmen were critical of the lack of a real lead by the national and regional leadership of their union, the TGWU. Brian Avey, the Chairman of 1/402 branch, said:

“Too much has been left to local initiative. We are prepared to do that but it has its limitations. We are dealing with a national transport undertaking and with a Labour government that is ignoring the policies of its own Party. The principles of both can only be changed by mass national action, properly planned and co-ordinated.”

Indeed the whole of the transportation industry needs planning and co-ordinating. “Nationalisation, integration and planning, together with democratic workers’ control and management, has long been the policy of the movement. Its time it was implemented” said Len Coombes, who is also Vice President of Brighton and Hove Trades Council.

Brian Avey explained the lunacy and shortsightedness of the merry-go-round of fare increases, loss of passengers, more cut backs, higher fares and a consequent further loss of passengers. Rural areas are becoming isolated. Pensioners and mothers with young children are becoming confined to their homes as they can’t afford to travel.

“The criteria for bus services must be a social one and not the fare box” was how one driver put it. Another illustrated the folly of continued fare increases with the example of the bus he operates. In the three weeks before a fare increase he carried an average of 325 passengers a shift and took £37.40, After the increases the number of passengers dropped to 251 for £33.97. “Make sense of that” he said.

Brian Avey told us of the busmen’s efforts to win the public over to their side. “This is essential”, he said, “because if strike action becomes necessary, owing to our pleas continuing to fall on deaf ears, the public will be greatly inconvenienced. We have to hammer home the message that whatever temporary hardship results from any action we may be forced to take, it will be nothing compared to the permanent damage that will be done to the economic and social fabric of society if we allow cuts to continue.

“We are calling on all our branches to affiliate and send their maximum delegations to Trades Councils and Labour Parties. We want our members to become involved in Ward branches, to put pressure on councillors and MPs. There is too much lip service paid to our campaign, its time they started acting or be replaced.”

Our main demands are:

  • Stop the Cuts
  • No fare increases
  • Free travel for pensioners
  • No redundancies
  • A 35 hour week with no loss of pay<
  • Full co-operation between road and rail
  • For an integrated, publicly owned transport system run
    under democratic workers’ control and management

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Last updated: 17 August 2016