For enthusiasts,researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

RW015: An Account of an Unofficial Transport Strike, 1936.

NEW AUGUST 2021. Labour disputes are often well documented from the Company's viewpoint. An account eloqently argued and presented of an unofficial strike as seen from the workers' side is much rarer. This one involved the bus industry and not the railways and lies just outside our region (in the Kettering area), but it is hoped will still be of interest.

The United Counties Omnibus Company, in common with many other similar concerns, had been bought up by Tillings - a private company with shareholders. In the early 1930s Tillings itself was restructured, and for UCOC at least a sustained policy was adopted of getting more work out of its staff for less money. An example given here is that running times were reduced to an impossible level to ensure men got through more work each day - but the buses were then unavoidably late, and layover breaks were eaten into or completely lost. Another instance was a roster from the Northampton garage which started at 5.55 am and ended at 7.20 pm, nearly 13½ hours in total. It had two huge gaps (which apparently might have been well away from home), so the actual time spent on the bus was only 6 hours - but the company had changed from a daily rate to an hourly one, so that marathon stint achieved only 6 hours' pay. 'An 80 hour week for 48 hours pay' was how the workers saw it.

The Company pleaded poverty but, according to the book's Appendix, from 1933 to 1935 the dividends paid to shareholders had shot up. The workers brought their union in, but they seemed to accept the Company's arguments. They came back with a proposal for a cut in pay in return for a week's paid holiday a year. Not surprisingly that was rejected, and the workers felt they had no choice but to take unofficial action.

Fred Marsh, one of the strikers, wrote this account of the eventful ten or so days. The Company bussed in a party of 'scabs', as Fred called them, from their associated company of Eastern Counties at Norwich. The workers fought an intelligent campaign, with what is described as considerable support from the general public - though readers may feel uncomfortble at the casual way damage was meted out to any buses still running. Windows were regularly broken, and a gang of locals in Irthlingborough tried unsuccessfully to turn a Leyland Titan on its side.

The card-covered book is entitled 'Busmen on Strike', and was probably produced in 1936. It contains 72 pages and includes some line drawings in a primitive style. The publisher was Modern Books, who appear to be related to the Workers' Bookshop Ltd. in London. The back cover advertises their latest publication, on the draft Soviet constitution with a foreword by J B Priestley.

The file is word-searchable and has bookmarks to the main parts. It will be available to download as soon as payment has been made. You go to your account and click on ‘Downloads’. New customers create an account as they place their order.

Standardisation script,
Pages 76
File Size (MB) 3.8

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