More than 23,000 people have signed a petition in support of a five-foot bus driver who was sacked because she could not use the wing mirrors safely.
Mother-of-three Tracey Scholes, 57, was one of the first female bus drivers in Manchester and has driven buses for 34 years.
But when Go North West changed the position of their buses’ wing mirrors, the 57-year-old widow had to lean around a pillar to see them, meaning she could not keep her feet on the pedals.
Mrs Scholes was offered a different role on the company’s school buses, which had more suitable mirrors, but the change would have meant a reduction in pay and hours worked.
She turned down the offer and she was given notice. The business said they had made ‘numerous proposals’ to keep her in the company.
After an appeal, with Mrs Scholes garnering support from a string of celebrities, the company agreed to offer the bus driver her current pay rate but with reduced hours, meaning she would still be losing £230 a month, the Unite union said.
Mrs Scholes, from Heywood, is now making a second appeal to keep her current hours – which would mean working just one extra hour a day.
She faces the final appeal against the decision on Tuesday.
Go North West changed the position of their buses’ wing mirrors meaning m other-of-three Tracey Scholes, 57, could not use them while keeping her feet on the pedals
Mother-of-three Tracey Scholes, 57, was one of the first female bus drivers in Manchester and has driven buses for 34 years
She told the Guardian: ‘I’ve had comments, sexual remarks, a lot of things. And I’ve dealt with that. I’ve not gone to management – I’ve gone and solved it and hit it head on,’ Scholes said.
‘When I started that job 34 years ago, I could drive everything in that depot.
‘And since they’ve done this, I can’t drive that bus now. If a bicycle or pedestrian was to walk up the near side of the vehicle … I can’t see that, it blocks my vision, and that’s not safe.’
After news of her plight was made public, a petition was set up to support her and has since garnered more than 23,000 signatures in three weeks.
The petition’s objective states that it is calling on the company ‘to reinstate Tracey Scholes with no loss of pay/no loss of hours and show that ‘Go-Ahead Group’ values loyal key workers’.
In addition to the 23,000 people who have signed the petition so far, Mrs Scholes has received support from celebrities such as Maxine Peake.
When Mrs Scholes tried to drive the buses after the mirror had been moved, she had to lean around a pillar on the cab assault screen to see it which meant taking her feet off the pedals
Describing the support as ‘overwhelming, she added: ‘I’ve got three children, I’m a widow, and I’ve got a mortgage to pay. I can’t take a pay cut.’
Go North West said in a statement: ‘Tracey was a valued member of our team at Go North West and we are extremely sorry to see her go. The design of the mirrors on our buses was agreed after consultation with Unite some time ago. All our other drivers of similar height to Tracey are able to view them safely.
‘When Tracey raised a concern with us, we made numerous proposals to accommodate her, including offering to put her on different routes, and different types of buses. Unfortunately, all our suggestions were rejected.
‘Dedicated, experienced, hardworking bus drivers are difficult to find and so we would never act lightly in a situation like this.
‘We are sorry that we were left with no choice but to bring this driver’s employment to an end.’
Mrs Scholes, a widow with 34 years’ experience, was offered a different role on the company’s school buses, which had more suitable mirrors, but the change would have meant a reduction in pay and hours worked
In a statement titled ‘You’re too short – so either we’ll cut your pay or sack you!’, Unite warned Go North West that it ‘must reinstate bus driver Tracey Scholes on full pay and hours’.
The statement said: ‘Last month, Go North West ruled that Tracey no longer had the capability to drive some buses.
‘Following an appeal, Tracey Scholes, 57, faces dismissal from her job unless she accepts losing 5 hours in pay a week.
‘It means she’ll lose £230 a month driving school buses where the wing mirrors have not been repositioned. Tracey, a widow and a mother of three, needs the work and the money.
‘Tracey will lodge a final appeal this week, however her union Unite is warning Go North West that it will defend Tracey’s right to keep her job. Management only needs to find Tracey one hour of work a day.
‘Go North West is already facing widespread condemnation for its handling of the situation. Unite is pledging to ramp up its campaign to protect Tracey’s hours.’
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Unite is determined to defend Tracey Scholes’ right to keep her job.
‘With 34 years’ service Tracey does not deserve to be put through this terrible ordeal over Christmas. Unite will fight for its members’ jobs, pay and conditions especially when an employer behaves in such a callous and disgraceful way.’
‘The management at Go North West only have to find Tracey one hour of work a day to solve this amicably. It’s not much for Go North West but it’s a lot for Tracey.
‘Instead, the company seems hell-bent on confrontation. Tracey has her union’s full support and I am ready to ramp up Unite’s campaign.’