14 Jan 2015

London bus strike hits back at the bosses

Lines of buses remained parked in garages across London on Tuesday as over 20,000 drivers struck to demand better pay. Commuters faced delays, and tube and rail services were overcrowded. Transport for London (TfL) urged Londoners to “walk or cycle where possible” as bus services ground to a halt.

Power
The walkout showed the collective power that workers have to win their pay dispute with the capital’s 18 bus operators and TfL. And it showed there’s an alternative to submitting to the Tories and the bosses—or waiting for Labour.
The workers, in the Unite union, are demanding an end to pay disparities where 80 different pay rates see over £3 an hour difference across the companies. Bus companies have refused to enter collective negotiations.


Impact
Mostafa, a Unite rep at Putney garage in south west London, told Socialist Worker, “We’re totally solid. Bosses will be afraid of the impact we are having.”
Picket lines were huge, noisy and multicultural. At Abellio’s Fulwell garage in Twickenham some 60 pickets chanted “United we stand, let’s strike together” in Polish, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Somali and English.
Drivers blocked scab buses and desperate bosses even called police. The lively pickets demonstrate the overwhelming support among drivers for the walkout. But they also prove the perfect antidote to the anti-migrant racism of the likes of Ukip.
Mostafa explained that many underlying reasons other than pay made the strike so well supported.
“Drivers face bullying managers, long hours and unfair treatment. It’s all about profits rather than providing a public service,” he said.


Ransom
Right wingers attacked the turnout for the strike ballot, with the Tories using the opportunity to renew calls to curb the right to strike. They say London is being held to ransom by a militant minority. Yet even TfL and Tory mayor Boris Johnson could only try and claim that a third of bus services were running. In fact TfL claimed just 44 out of 673 bus routes ran a normal service.


Years
The dispute has been years in the making. Companies have driven down pay to squeeze more profit from the public subsidy that TfL gives for running bus routes. This has created a two-tier workforce.
As pay stagnates, the cost of living continues to rise.
“It’s about time!” said Jay, a driver for Tower Transit in north west London. “Over 20,000 drivers in London are out for equality... There’s only one winner with inequality and that’s the bosses. This is the first time I’ve seen a collective strike across London.”
Westbourne Park driver Patrick told Socialist Worker, “I feel like I’ve got a big family —that’s a powerful feeling.”


Unequal
Mike Weston, TfL’s director of buses, justified unequal pay by insisting that “bus drivers have different skills and experience”.
Mostafa said this was “nonsense”. He said, “We all do the same training for the same job—it’s the same skills that are required... The companies are just cutting back to save money.”
The bus operators’ latest accounts show combined profits of £172 million, with directors pocketing £7.24 million a year. That’s public money that could be invested in the bus service. It’s money that could bring down fares and raise pay so that drivers get the same rate across the city.


Escalate
Bus drivers have the power to win this dispute, but Unite now needs to escalate the strikes. Tower Transit rep Hanafi told Socialist Worker that union organisation is crucial to beating the bosses.
He said, “If you don’t fight for it, you can’t win it.
“They are never going to hand it on a plate to us—that’s why we’ve all got to back each other up now.”
Some workers’ names have been changed. 

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk

7 Jan 2015

London-wide bus strike called for 13 January

Unite has announced that up to 27,000 bus workers will be taking part in a London wide bus strike on Tuesday 13 January. The historic 24 hour stoppage is in response to the continued refusal by the capital’s 18 bus operators to enter into talks about a single London-wide agreement covering bus workers’ pay, terms and conditions.

Disparities
In contrast to tube drivers, there isn’t one collective pay deal for bus drivers in the capital, whose pay is negotiated on a company by company basis leading to pay inequality and disparities. There are over 80 different pay rates covering London’s bus drivers, doing the same job, even driving the same route but for different rates of pay. A refusal by the bus operators to address the issue has led to pay gaps of over £3 an hour for new starters opening up, with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company.

Companies
Unite represents over 27,000 bus workers working for 18 bus companies who serve Greater London. These are: Arriva North, Arriva South, Selkent, London General, Metroline, Metroline West, Metrobus, CT Plus, London United, Abellio South, Abellio West, London Sovereign, Stagecoach, Blue Triangle, Northumberland Park, Tower Transit, Docklands and London Central.
http://www.unitetheunion.org

Pickets will be from 3.30am, with a peak time from 5am-9am. They will be big and lively. Please visit  your local garage to show your support. A list of them can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org

3 Jan 2015

London: Tower Transit drivers strike for two days

Drivers at Tower Transit's Lea Interchange garage in East London struck for 24 hours on Monday 29 December in a dispute over pay and conditions.
The Unite members action hit 13 routes. A union spokesperson said: "Faced with an increasingly hostile management which is hell bent on driving down the pay, terms and conditions, our members have been left with little option but to take the unusual step of striking... Tower Transit need to get back around the negotiating table and start treating its workforce with respect."
The industrial action is the first strike over the dispute, with a second 24-hour walkout planned for Monday 5 January.
http://www.bbc.co.uk

Tower Transit is a relative newcomer to London. It was formed when Transit Systems (a transport group based in Australia) bought up the Atlas Road, Lea Interchange and Westbourne Park garages from FirstLondon (a subsidiary of FirstGroup) in 2013.

18 Dec 2014

London's bus drivers vote 85% for strikes

London’s bus drivers have overwhelmingly backed industrial action in a dispute over unfair pay disparities between the capital’s 18 bus operators, their union Unite announced today.
The vote in favour, which averaged 85 percent across the 18 companies, raises the prospect of a London wide bus strike in the new year if the operators refuse to enter talks about the formation of a single London wide agreement covering bus workers’ pay, terms and conditions. 


A widening pay gap
A refusal by the bus operators to address the issue has led to pay gaps of over £3 an hour for new starters opening up with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company. As well as strike action members also backed action short of a strike by 89 per cent.
Unite represents over 27,000 bus workers working for 18 bus companies who serve Greater London. These are: Arriva North, Arriva South, Selkent, London General, Metroline, Metroline West, Metrobus, CT Plus, London United, Abellio South, Abellio West, London Sovereign, Stagecoach, Blue Triangle, Northumberland Park, Tower Transit, Docklands and London Central.
http://www.unitetheunion.org

15 Dec 2014

Arriva London strikes suspended for talks

Drivers at Arriva North and Arriva South buses in London were due to strike tomorrow over pay. This has now been suspended for talks at ACAS.

12 Dec 2014

Arriva London drivers to strike on Tuesday

On Tuesday 16 December over 3,000 Unite members at Arriva North and Arriva South buses in London are set to strike for 24 hours over pay. They were offered just 1.85 percent by the operator.
The vote for action was a massive 86 percent. Please come and show your support on the picket lines. Here is the list of garages: http://www.arrivalondon.com/ourgarages

This action follows recent pay settlements at London United (5 percent over 18 months), Stagecoach (2.5 percent) and London Sovereign (£700 lump sum for the first year and 4 percent for the second year)

3 Dec 2014

20,000 London bus drivers in strike vote over pay

Over 20,000 bus drivers across London’s 18 bus operators began voting today on whether to strike over pay disparities across the capital’s buses – in a campaign to secure a London-wide agreement covering pay, terms and conditions.
In contrast to London's metro drivers, there is not one collective pay deal for bus drivers in the capital, whose pay is negotiated on a company by company basis leading to pay inequality and disparities between drivers driving the same routes.
A refusal by the bus operators to address the issue has led to pay gaps of over £2 an hour for new starters opening up with pay varying from £9.30 to £11.46 an hour depending on the company.
The ballot of the members of Unite closes on Thursday 18 December, raising the possibility of strike action in the new year if London’s bus operators continue with their refusal to enter talks. A consultative ballot in November saw 96 per cent of members indicate they would be willing to strike.
http://www.unitetheunion.org

6 Nov 2014

Three fires on London buses this week

A bus caught alight in Mitcham, south-west London at 12.26pm today. It is the third such incident in the capital this week. It took firefighters half an hour to extinguish the blaze on Western Road. It follows fires on buses in Barnet on Monday (after a collision with a car) and Wallington on Wednesday (apparently due to the rear brake seizing).
http://www.bbc.co.uk/29938715
http://www.bbc.co.uk/29913960