More than 25,000 people have signed a petition to save the job of a Manchester bus depot’s first female driver, after the phasing in of new buses meant that she was too short to do her job.
Tracey Scholes, 57, started driving buses from Manchester’s Queens Road depot in 1987 where she was the first and for some time only woman driver.
After 34 years in the job, Scholes, who is 5ft tall, has been dismissed because she is unable to reach the pedals on new buses when she views the nearside wing mirror. A pillar which forms part of the “assault screen” means she has to lean back to view the mirror.
After raising concerns with bus operator Go North West, part of Go-Ahead Group, she was initially suspended and then dismissed with 12 weeks’ notice. The Unite union helped get the company to offer her different routes with buses that she can drive safely, but she received fewer hours than her previous contract.
Dealing with disputes
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, called for Scholes to be reinstated on full pay and full hours. “She has given 34 years of unblemished service. It seems inconceivable that due to the blind intransigence of its local management in Manchester, Go-Ahead is now ready to watch unlimited damage to its international reputation as a result of the tawdry treatment of Tracey.”
The petition calls upon Christian Schreyer, Go-Ahead Group’s chief executive, to reinstate Scholes with no loss of pay or hours and show that Go-Ahead Group values loyal key workers.
Go-Ahead said: “With the support of Unite, new wing mirrors are being introduced to many UK buses for safety reasons, to avoid long-arm mirrors being snapped off through contact with tree branches and street furniture.
“Driving seats and mirrors on all our vehicles are adjustable to suit each individual’s stature. We have 13,000 bus drivers UK-wide of varying height, both male and female, including a number who are 5ft or below, and only one driver has raised a concern.”
A statement from the transport group said that Go North West has “worked hard” to find a solution for Scholes by offering alternative vehicles, routes and schedules at a protected rate of pay. These included alternatives with equivalent weekly hours.
“All our proposals have been turned down,” said the statement. “We have sought a constructive dialogue on this issue and offered reasonable adjustments to working conditions. We regret the fact that our offers have been rejected.”