‘I want my job back, that’s all I want’: bus driver of 34 years Tracey Scholes sacked for being ‘too short’

After decades of service, the five-foot bus driver says she is being punished for something that ‘isn’t her fault’

People have rallied to the support of one of Manchester’s first female bus drivers, who was dismissed from her role recently for being “too short”.

Five-foot Tracey Scholes has been a bus driver for 34 years, but after a redesign of the Go North West buses she is unable to drive them safely.

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At a glance: key points

  • Dozens of people were out in support yesterday (11 January) at the Queen’s Road Go North West depot in Manchester, as a final appeal hearing for Scholes’ dismissal took place.
  • More than 27,000 people have signed a petition calling for Scholes, from Rochdale, to be reinstated with full pay and hours.
  • Workers’ union Unite has been supporting Scholes, and has pledged to wage an “unrelenting campaign to save Tracey’s job”.
  • Go North West, part of the Go Ahead Group, changed the specification on their buses, moving the wing-mirrors to a position which meant Scholes is no longer able to safely drive them.
  • Once this became clear, the firm offered Scholes a different job from the one she has done for 34 years, driving school buses, but for less hours and less money
  • Scholes, a mother of three and a widow, turned down the offer, which would have seen her pay reduced by £230 a month, as she cannot afford to take a pay cut.
  • As a result, Go North West gave Scholes her notice, although the firm maintains that it offered “alternative vehicles, routes and schedules at a protected rate of pay”

What’s been said?

Speaking to ManchesterWorld, Scholes said: “I’ve never been through the appeals procedure, I’ve never put a grievance in. I didn’t know what to do.

“I want my job back, that’s all I want. I want to be paid for what I do, what I’ve worked before. We’ve got a solution there.

“It's a reduction in hours, it's a pay-cut, and I can’t afford it. Not for something that isn’t my fault.

“I just want to come and do my job. I didn’t want all this, I don’t know why we’ve ended up in this situation.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Tracey Scholes was the first woman bus driver at the Manchester depot. Her appointment broke the mould for women in the bus industry.

“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. But that is exactly what is happening.

“From Poland to Turkey, from Norway to Indonesia, media reports have pilloried the bull-headed stance of local Go Ahead management."

Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said: "Go Ahead Group management can end this catastrophe by reinstating Tracey on full pay and full hours. Management only has to find Tracey one hour of work a day.

“If they fail to do so then they must recognise their reputation will be tarnished forever internationally and they will face the consequences of that as well as facing an unrelenting campaign to save Tracey’s job."

A Go North West spokesperson said: “Go-Ahead is committed to treating every one of its 27,000 colleagues with fairness, dignity and respect.

“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, including a number who are five foot or below, and only one driver has raised a concern.

“Go North West has worked hard to find a solution for the individual concerned by offering alternative vehicles, routes and schedules at a protected rate of pay. These include alternatives with equivalent weekly hours. All our proposals have been turned down.

“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.”