Immigration And The Bus Industry!

I was watching a really good documentary recently about the first wave of immigrants who moved to Birmingham from Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands in the 1950’s and onwards. The generation known as Windrush, the name of the first ship that brought them to the UK, and recently of course the victims of some outrageous conduct by the home office, that eventually resulted in a public apology by the then Prime Minister Theresa May. The documentary was a real eye opener and chronicled the real struggles that these young pioneers endured at the hands of a post war Britain that truly did not understand that these British commonwealth citizens actually had every right to live and work in the United Kingdom.

The documentary showed the old footage of boarding houses that had notices in the windows stating No Blacks, No Irish , No Dogs. It is hard to understand in 2019 just what made mostly middle aged white British people perceive people of a different skin colour in this way. The documentary did not judge the generation because as the report said, they were victims of ignorance and fear, not understanding these newcomers actually had a better knowledge of British history than the incumbents as they were taught that Britain was the Motherland, from day one. One aspect of the film that resonated with me was the fact that the one Company that embraced these men of colour was the Corporation Bus Company which became the largest employer with over 300 working as conductors and drivers, a year from the first man being employed. It was telling that an interview with a trade union official explained that his members were not happy that so many of these men were employed in one branch and insisted that other areas should employ more as their region was full up.

It is an incredible reflection of todays multi cultural and diverse country that we live in, that has seen a complete about turn within its culture that for the most part I believe has fostered a fair and inclusive society. From my own lifetime experience as part of the UK Bus Industry, it has always been pioneering when accepting people to work within the bus world, indeed my own experience in setting up a recruitment process to employ people from Eastern Europe and mostly Poland, proved that this open armed policy was instrumental in keeping the bus industry alive and kicking . In excess of 3,000 employees were recruited into First group through this process, that welcomed the new members of the enlarged EU in 2004. It is indeed my sincere hope that the bus industry retains this open arm policy to an industry that is quite simply, all about people, and as always to work in a people industry, guess what you have to like people. It certainly helps, and it does not matter what skin colour you have, what religion you might follow or who you love, it is all irrelevant what matters is decency and compassion, and it helps if you like driving buses.

Written by Austin Birks

October 11, 2019

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