Widowed mum Tracey Scholes, one of few women in the job when she started driving buses in Greater Manchester, says she was given her notice last month
Image: MEN MEDIA)
A bus driver with 34 years of experience claims she has been sacked for being “too short” after wing mirrors on the vehicles were repositioned.
Tracey Scholes, who is five feet, says she was one of few women in the job when she started driving buses in Greater Manchester.
On her first day in 1987, she recalls a very frosty reception and says there weren’t even female toilets on the Cheetham Hill site, reported the Manchester Evening News.
But trailblazer Tracey remained at the depot with First bus and then Go North West, when they took over in 2019, and it was a devastating blow when she was given her notice last month.
The reason, claims Unite union, is that since the operator has repositioned its wing mirrors, Tracey is too short to use them at the same time as reaching the pedals.
Unite claims Tracey was told she no longer had the “capability” to safely drive the buses and she was offered an alternative role at the company, but for less hours and pay.
Tracey declined and was given 12 weeks’ notice, a decision she is now appealing.
Tracey, 57, from Heywood, said: “This is heartbreaking. I’m a widow with three children, a house and a mortgage and it’s nearly Christmas.
“I’ve never had to involve the union before, I’ve never had a disciplinary, never been suspended.
“I’ve always gone to management myself with any issues and worked it through.”
Tracey said the firm began replacing broken “branch” mirrors to the side of the windscreen with side mirrors, around two years ago.
When Tracey tried to drive these buses, she’d have to lean around a pillar on the cab assault screen to see the mirror, meaning her feet lifted off the pedals.
Tracey brought this to management’s attention and bosses assigned her routes driving single and double deckers with the old-style mirrors, she claims.
Tracey was most recently assigned the 93 route from Shudehill to Prestwich, and says she would increasingly arrive on shift to find the tricky wing mirrors.
“It’s one of the most important pieces of equipment on the bus. You need it to turn a corner or pull into a bus stop. When you turn you need to watch that mirror to see the angles on the back wheel so you don’t clip a curb,” said Tracey.
“For years I could drive everything in the garage. But I was running out of buses I could drive.”
She added: “I’m flabbergasted that they can just get rid of me after 34 years. I love my job, I don’t want to lose it. I have regular customers and a regular route.”
Tracey has been moved by the outpouring of support from her colleagues.
“I work with such a great bunch of lads. They are lovely,” she said.
“I’ve had such tremendous support with this. It’s just blown me away.”
As part of the fight for Tracey to keep her job, her colleagues have started a petition which now has more than 1,700 signatures.
A Unite the union spokesman said: “Tracey is a hardworking, loved and a valued member of the NW/5/4 Branch and the Queens Road family who deserves to be commended for her years of service to the traveling public of Greater Manchester.
“However Go North West Ltd has dismissed her from employment because they changed the manufacturer specification on their fleet of buses resulting in five foot tall Tracey being physically unable to operate company vehicles safely.
“Go North West Ltd have refused to consider proposals from Tracey and her Unite trade union reps to keep her in employment.
“This has resulted in her unfair dismissal from Go North West Ltd for capability to fulfil her role a PCV driver.
“The company’s only resolution is to offer Tracey a position in the company that would see Tracey’s pay and hours cut significantly leaving her in financial hardship.”
A spokesman from Go North West, which runs 16 routes, mostly in North Manchester, told MEN: “We are extremely proud of our team of drivers who continue to perform excellent work keeping the people of Manchester moving.
“Unfortunately, a situation has arisen where we have had to bring a driver’s employment to an end. This is a complex case, and the appeals process is ongoing.
“Therefore, we are unable to comment further at this stage”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.