Thousands sign petition after bus driver sacked for being 'too short'

9 January 2022, 16:11 | Updated: 9 January 2022, 16:19

Tracey Scholes has been driving buses in Manchester since the 1980s.
Tracey Scholes has been driving buses in Manchester since the 1980s. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

More than 15,000 people have signed a petition after a Manchester bus driver was sacked for being 'too short'.

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Tracey Scholes, 57, first started driving buses in 1987, and was the first female driver at Manchester Queen's Road depot.

Last year around 84% of bus drivers in the UK were men.

Ms Scholes is five feet tall and is unable to drive a new bus model due to her height.

She reportedly lacks the "capability" to drive the new model, due to changes including the wing mirror and assault screen positions.

The changes mean she would have to lean backwards to look in the mirror, which leaves her unable to reach the pedals.

Ms Scholes raised concerns with her employer, Go North West, but she was later dismissed with 12 weeks notice.

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Ms Scholes said the company offered her different routes with buses that she is able to drive but these new routes have fewer hours and lower pay than her previous contract.

She told the Guardian: "I’ve got three children, I’m a widow and I’ve got a mortgage to pay, I can’t take a pay cut."

She added that the decision "broke her heart", but that support she has received since has been "absolutely overwhelming".

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The online petition calling for Ms Scholes to be reinstated states: "She deserves better!"

It reads: "Over the years Tracey has been instrumental in paving the way for other women to take up positions within the passenger sector.

"Tracey is a hardworking, loved and 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 some company vehicles.

"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."

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Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, tweeted: "Management at @TheGoAheadGroup only has to find Tracey one hour of work a day to solve this amicably.

"It's not much for Go NW but it's a lot for Tracey. Instead, the company seems hell-bent on confrontation.

"Tracey has her union’s full support."

A Go North West spokesperson told the Guardian Scholes was a valued member of the team and they had made "numerous proposals to accommodate" Scholes.

"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.

"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."

A final appeal against the decision will take place on Tuesday.