28 Jun 2012

London drivers to strike again on 5 and 24 July

From the Unite press release: 
Thousands of London bus workers will take strike action next Thursday (5 July) followed by action on Tuesday (24 July) in a dispute over London bus operators' continued refusal to recognise their workers' extra effort over the Olympics with a £500 Olympic award.

Unite accused the bus operators of playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship, pushing action closer towards the Games. With just 29 days to go to the Olympics, the union called on the operators to join it for talks on Monday at Acas. The operators - which have collectively posted over £2 billion in profits - have yet to confirm their presence at the negotiating table.

Reballot means everyone could strike together on 24 July
The reballot of bus workers at Metroline, Arriva the Shires and Go Ahead London General is expected to start next Wednesday (4 July) and finish on Tuesday (17 July) meaning action on 24 July could lead to a total standstill of bus services across London, just three days before the Olympic Games.

Unite to reballot workers hit by injunction

Unite is to reballot London bus drivers barred from striking over Olympic bonuses by a high court injunction. The union will hold a new poll for 4,000 workers at three operators that had secured an injunction over ballot irregularities last week.
Unite is preparing to announce further strike dates as it steps up demands for a £500 Olympic Games bonus for its 21,000 bus industry members, although the payment could ultimately extend to around 29,000 staff.

It is also understood that bus operators have sounded out TfL about a contribution towards an Olympic bonus, but TfL has made clear that the ODA fund will be the limit of any taxpayer-backed contribution. http://www.guardian.co.uk

Busworker meeting in Ladbroke Grove

After the success of our post-strike meeting in Willesden, we're setting up a few more around London. The details for the Ladbroke Grove meeting are as follows:

After the strike...
Building the fightback on London’s buses
Tuesday 3 July, 6.30pm
@ Trellick Lounge Cafe (downstairs)
11 Goldborne Road, London W10 5NY
Nearest tube: Westbourne Park

• The fight to win the London bonus is well and truly on. But how do we make sure that it wins?  
• Can we widen the battle to take on low pay and the drive to a two tier workforce? 
• And can we take on the anti trade union laws that the employers are trying to use to break the fightback? Come along to discuss the way forward.

27 Jun 2012

Stagecoach: profits up, pensions down

Stagecoach reported pre-tax profits for the year to the April rose to £239.8m from £209.7m, for the same period a year earlier, on revenues of £2.6bn (£2.4bn). The results were lifted almost entirely by one-off items, including a £38m exceptional gain from changes to the company’s pension scheme, which reduces its liabilities going forward.

£500 Olympic bonus – for some Boris bike staff

Boris Bike staff have won a £500 Olympic bonus for extra work during the Games - putting added pressure on the capital's bus operators to pay their 20,000 staff the same amount.
Terry Pye, national officer for Community the union said all 220 workers at Serco's London cycle hire scheme would receive the money to cover extra work during the Games and Paralympics. There will also be enhanced overtime payments of time and a half for Saturdays and double time on Sundays.

Most staff still in dispute
The RMT last month threated a strike ballot among its bike staff members and today claimed there was no agreement among the majority of those members. The union said it remained in dispute with the compan
y. A Serco spokesman said the RMT was not a recognised union at the hire scheme having formally withdrawn its recognition application last month.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said "There is no Olympics payment agreement for the vast majority of the Serco bikes staff who are members of the RMT and we remain in dispute with the company. RMT is by far the biggest union on the Boris bikes and regardless of what others might be saying the issue of recognition is being dealt with by the TUC disputes procedure." 

Safety comes last - a driver's account

Conditions in the garages have been deteriorating for about 4 years. Ever since the crisis in the economy started in 2008, they’ve used it as an excuse to not invest at all. They try and make ‘savings’ and cut corners everywhere they can, and to get away with it, they bully and attempt to trick the workers.  

Old buses
Some garages have better buses than others. In my garage, we’ve got dreadful buses. They’re too old and everyone knows it. Management has been telling workers who point this out that we’ve just got to ‘hang on in there’ till we get some new buses in a year or two. But the old buses, which never do get replaced, are so bad many of drivers have even gone so far as to hand in resignation notices or tried to get transfers elsewhere. When they do arrive they’re not new buses at all - they’re the same models as the ones we’ve got, only 1 or 2 years newer! And they try and tell us they’re new!

Defect cards
If we complain, we are threatened with penalisation and disciplinaries. By law we have to fill in ‘defect cards’ which are legal documents, so we cannot lie and cover up defects on buses, nor do we want to. Defective buses are a danger to the public and drivers. But they never take notice of the defect cards, and I’ve been threatened with disciplinary action for filling one in correctly. This is because there are no spare parts - the garages are empty, due to ‘savings’, and so they can’t repair them.


The lengths management go to to undermine the drivers when they point this out are unbelievable. If a disabled ramp is discovered to be broken on a bus, and the driver reports this, instead of fixing it, they’ll simply move that bus onto another route, so we think it’s being dealt with, and the drivers on the other route have to wait until they need to use the ramp to find out it’s defective. Then they’ll move that bus on again. So drivers have stopped filling in these legal documents, the defect cards, because they’re demoralised.  
One time a few years ago the window of my cab fell out. When the engineer came to repair it, he didn’t have the right tools and couldn’t do it properly. So now that window constantly rattles and makes a horrible noise, and it gives the driver a headache when he or she is driving all day. If I come into work and see I’ve got that bus, I know my whole day is ruined. 
Avoiding blame
If you report a bus as defective, it’s supposed to be taken in and the driver, engineering manager and others watch the entrances to the bus get sealed so that when it is tested, they know the bus is as it was when you reported it. When the brakes went on my bus and I reported it, the engineering manager didn’t want to get the blame for allowing faulty brakes on a bus, which he’d done to save money. After I complained he rang me up on my own mobile, which breaks procedure, to threaten me with disciplinary action. He had to do it over the mobile because what he was telling me - to not report it - was incriminatory. This way our conversation wasn’t recorded.

Breaking seals
A colleague in the garage who knows him rang me later, after we’d sealed the bus, and told me the engineering manager was going to break the seals to the bus at night, making my complaint invalid. He knew the bus, which was his responsibility, would fail the test, and so needed to break the seals so that no one could know if the brakes had gone after or before I reported it. Lo and behold when the bus came to be tested the seals were broken, which was blamed on ‘the cleaners’.

In our garage a new system is coming in which has been with other garages for some time, where it is very unpopular. An electronic system will monitor drivers to see if they are braking or accelerating too sharply. It even monitors passengers’ movements to see if they’re moving around too much due to our driving. Not only is this draconian and an insult to hard working drivers, but it’s not even remotely fair because the buses are faulty and are not being repaired. ‘Bad’ driving is more often than not down to an ageing bus letting the driver down. Suspension won’t be fixed until it falls off.

Getting rid of drivers

One reason this is being brought in is to have an excuse to get rid of workers. After you’ve been with a company for 5 years you get higher wages and other kinds of bonuses. So they are now, in the last few years especially, trying very hard to get rid of drivers before they get to that point. If the public knew the state of the buses they would not get on them. If they knew how we were treated they would definitely support our strike. We want to be recognised and treated properly and equally with other transport workers. 

London garages blockaded over Olympic bonus

Supporters of London bus workers demanding a bonus for extra work during the Olympics have blockaded a number of garages around the capital this morning, preventing buses from leaving. 
The activists have targeted six depots in London operated by the three companies – Arriva, Metroline and Go-Ahead – which secured a High Court injunction preventing their staff from joining last Friday’s strike action. An activist blockading one of the Go-Ahead depots in south London told UnionNews: “We’ll stay here as long as we can, until the police come.” 
Unite intends to lodge a legal challenge to the injunction – likely to be made later this week – and officials say the union will also re-ballot its members at the three companies to allow them to take part in any future strike action in the Olympic bonus dispute.

22 Jun 2012

Bus worker meeting - where next after the strike

Today's strike has been fantastic, but it is clear we need to debate the way forward, and get better organised in the garages.  To this end, Bus worker is hosting a meeting which is open to all London bus workers.

We will discuss: 
How can we push the campaign forward? 
How do we make sure that issues like fair pay and a two-tier workforce are raised alongside the bonus issue?
How can we get one rate for the job across London?

Tuesday 26 June, 6.30pm
@ Willesden Labour Club (the Apollo Club), 375 High Road, London NW10 2JR. It is just opposite Willesden bus garage.

Lively pickets across London

There were lively and confident scenes on bus garage picket lines across London this morning as workers in the Unite union struck for 24 hours to demand an Olympic bonus payment.

Lea Interchange
Some 150 pickets gathered this morning at First Capital’s Lea Interchange site within a few hundred metres of the Olympic stadiums. “This area will be bedlam during the Olympics—and so will London as a whole,” said Iqbal, one of the pickets. “We deserve a bonus. In fact, we deserve better pay all round!” Strikers are determined to see a clear victory—and are excited by Unite’s decision to increase its claim for every day’s pay the workers lose by striking. “It’s a good idea,” said Ahmed. “Let’s be bold—we can bring the capital to a halt, judges or no judges.”


In Camberwell in south London there are two garages in sight of each other. Workers from London Central and Abellio bus companies lined the road. At 5am managers were failing to convince workers to go into work. An abandoned bus sat a short distance down the road, left by the driver at the end of the previous shift. 
One London Central worker told Socialist Worker, “The company bosses are doing fine—but they ignore us. People know how hard bus drivers worker and will support us.” Samuel, an Abellio driver, added, “Either they’ll have to give everyone in London a car, or they’ll have to give us £500. That’s the only way they won’t have gridlock during the Olympics.”
Another driver spoke about the conditions workers faced. He said, “We have no toilet breaks and no meal breaks. Basically we’ve been shat on for years—and enough is enough.” He added, “London needs buses. If you need to get to a hospital at 2am how will you get there? By bus. We should be treated with more respect.” 

More than 70 pickets gathered outside Leyton bus garage in east London this morning. Unite activists told Socialist Worker that nobody had crossed the picket line. “Privatisation chops us all up,” said one driver. “Before we were privatised we were all on one pay scale, but London’s bus drivers are on about 20 different pay scales now. They say you’re all different—Stagecoach, Arriva, First or whatever. Really we’re all one.” 

Many drivers were outraged at a letter Stagecoach managers had sent them claiming that their pay deal already included an Olympics payment. “It’s just not true,” said one striking worker. “After two years with a pay freeze we negotiated an increase that relied on us working an extra half hour a week. No one mentioned the Olympics till this.”
Another driver explained what working on the buses was like. “If I wasn’t on strike today, I’d be working seven days straight, 6am to 4.20pm, with two and a half hours in breaks. “We’re expected to do two journeys before we take a break. That’s not easy—you’ve got to concentrate all the time even in heavy traffic. I’d like to see any of the journalists who sneer about what an easy job we have driving round do a week behind the wheel.” 

Around a hundred pickets shut down the Arriva bus garage in Tottenham this morning. The strike was solid, uniting workers across grades and from all corners of the globe. Pickets were furious that a judge had granted injunctions to stop strikes at three companies. “Who is this judge who says we can’t fight for our rights?” one demanded.
There was a mood for more action. A Unite rep said, “We are going to need more of this to shift the companies. We’re going to need at least one or two strikes to force them to pay the bonus.” This call was echoed by Michael at Bow garage in east London. “We need to strike not just for one day but for weeks,” he told Socialist Worker. “If we struck on the opening ceremony of the Olympics then they’d have to listen.”

More pictures from the London bus strike

Photo: picket at Harrow garage in NW London

Photo: picket at Bow garage in east London

21 Jun 2012

Workers at 17 bus operators to strike tomorrow

From Unite's latest press release:
London bus workers in seventeen bus companies will still be on strike tomorrow despite a high court injunction which Britain’s largest union, Unite branded an ‘affront to democracy.’

The three companies where strike action is suspended because of the injunction are: Metroline, Arriva the Shires, London General.

Strikes will go ahead at: London United, London Sovereign, Stagecoach East, Stagecoach Rainham, Stagecoach Selkent, Arriva North, Arriva South, First Capital, First Centre West, London Central, Abellio West, Abellio South, Metrobus, Docklands, Blue Triangle, CT Plus and Arriva Southern Counties.

London regional secretary, Peter Kavanagh, said: “Bus workers across the vast majority of London’s bus network will be on strike tomorrow. This comes despite an injunction which was given without any proper explanation. It begs the question of whether the court has come under any external pressure in making the ruling. Granting an injunction in the face of a massive vote for strike action is an affront to democracy. We are fast becoming a country where justice rules in favour of big business and tramples on the rights of ordinary working men and women.

Injunction granted against London strike

The BBC are reporting that a High Court judge has granted an injunction to stop tomorrow's bus strike. Metroline had joined Arriva and Go-Ahead in applying for it. There is no confirmation yet as to if the injunction applies to all the bus operators, or just those three.

London-wide strike to go ahead

BBC News is tweeting that tomorrow's bus strike in London is on, after talks at ACAS broke down.

Operators go for injunction to stop Olympic strike

Two bus companies are seeking an injunction to stop tomorrow's strike by about 20,000 London bus workers. Arriva and Go Ahead have applied to the High Court for the injunction.  
The move occurs as talks at ACAS continue between Unite and representatives of the 21 bus operators involved. Go-Ahead has 23% of the London bus market, and Arriva is also a major player.

20 Jun 2012

Friday's Olympic strike already winning concessions

With the first London-wide bus strike since 1982 just hours away, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has coughed up £8.3m in a bid to avert it. And it's not just the ODA that's getting nervous. A lot of politicians have suddenly woken up to the potential power that the capital's bus workers have. 
Boris Johnson said the money will be given to bus firms for negotiations – on condition the strike is cancelled. Unite "cautiously welcomed" the offer but refused to call off the strike until it hears from the bus firms. However, the amount on offer isn't nearly enough to cover the £500 bonus that bus workers are asking for. Unite estimates that would cost £14 million. 
For many months the bus operators and TfL refused to talk to Unite about the bonus – it's only the threat of action that's won anything from them. It is vital that advantage isn't thrown away by calling off the action without winning the full amount.

19 Jun 2012

Tube may be forced to close by Friday's strike

The Tube will be forced to close if Friday's bus strike creates dangerous overcrowding levels on the already packed service, RMT leader Bob Crow said today. 
The union will order staff to stop work - citing workplace Health & Safety regulations - if they believe too many passengers are creating conditions dangerous for themselves and other users. That could mean staff closing stations or refusing to drive trains if they genuinely believe safety is being put at risk. Tube bosses said they would have additional staff at stations to cope with the extra passenger numbers.

Packed to capacity
Nearly 6.5 million journeys are made on London's buses every day and many passengers will try to use the Tube as their only alternative method of public transport on strike day. The Tube already carries 3.4 million passengers a day with trains packed to capacity during morning and evening peak times.

Bob Crow said his union "has deep concerns about the safety implications of trying to cram hundreds of thousands of extra journeys into a system creaking at the seams and our safety reps will be monitoring the situation closely on Friday."

18 Jun 2012

Unite: we will add a day's pay to claim if Friday's strike goes ahead

Unite has stepped up the pressure in the dispute over the Olympic bonus – by saying its claim for extra pay will increase if strikes go ahead. Members of Unite on London buses are planning a 24-hour walkout on Friday over a claim for £500 for working during the Games. The union said it will add a day's pay to its claim if the strike goes ahead.
More than 20,000 members of Unite working for 21 London bus operators, including Go Ahead, Stagecoach, London United, Arriva, Metroline, First and Abellio backed strike action by an average of 94%.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union warned of a "massive impact" on Tube and rail services on Friday as millions of passengers try to find alternative means of travel as a result of the strike.
Press Association

15 Jun 2012

London-wide strike next Friday

Unite has announced that bus drivers across London will go on 24-hour strike next Friday, in a dispute over the Olympic bonus. The strike will start at 3am on Friday 22 June and last until 3am Saturday 23 June. The union said it could not rule out further strikes during the Olympics. 
Unite regional secretary for London, Peter Kavanagh, said: "London buses will come to a standstill for the first time in a generation across London on 22 June. The blame lies squarely with the bus operators and TfL... The bus companies haven't met with Unite once to discuss bus workers' extra contribution to the Olympic Games and TfL has refused to intervene."

£400 Olympic bonus – for cleaners

Workers who clean trains on the West Coast main line are to receive a £400 bonus for working during the Olympic Games. The RMT said it was a "ground-breaking" deal involving contract cleaners on Virgin trains. General secretary Bob Crow said cleaners were often excluded from deals, adding: "RMT has prioritised the fight for a fair deal for cleaning, catering and other support staff who are working for contractors." 

14 Jun 2012

Jersey drivers win 3% pay rise

Jersey bus workers will get a 3% pay rise, the managing director of Connex has announced. Eric Le Roux said all planned bus strikes are off and the company would also employ four new bus drivers from September. The company has been in talks with the Unite union after a planned strike which could have affected thousands of passengers was called off. 

The initial offer was of 2.5%, so the mere threat of strike action did win something. But with inflation running at 3.5% (the official RPI), the "raise" still amounts to a pay cut. Strike action could have won significantly more.

11 Jun 2012

TfL bosses to get Olympic bonuses of £80,000

Unite has accused Transport for London (TfL) of ' barefaced hypocrisy' following revelations that senior TfL executives are in line to earn Olympic bonuses 160 times more than the award bus workers are demanding. 
According to TfL's unaudited annual report, the top seven staff at the organisation are in line to cash in on two years of annual bonuses worth £560,000 which equates to £80,000 each if the system runs smoothly during the Olympic Games. 
On Saturday Leon Daniels, TfL's Managing Director of Surface Transport, who earns a basic salary of £234,000, condemned bus workers whose average salary is £26,000, for asking for an Olympic award. 
Bus workers are asking for an Olympic award in line with what every other London transport worker will get for the massive increase in workload during the Games. Unite has been urging TfL to intervene since September 2011 to persuade London's bus operators to meet with Unite. TfL has refused at every turn to help resolve this dispute. In a clear sign that bus workers patience has run out they voted by 94 per cent for industrial action.

Revenue up, pay frozen

For 2010/11 revenue for TfL from the buses was £1.3 billion, an 8 per cent year on year increase. Bus workers have endured pay freezes and below inflation increases over the last few years. 2.3 billion bus journeys were taken in 2011/12 – the highest since 1959. Half of all bus journeys taken in England are taken in London.

Breakdown of Olympic bonus vote by operator

Company name
Votes cast in the ballot
number voting YES
Number voting NO
Number of spoilt papers
Abelio West London Ltd
Abelio London Ltd
Arriva London North Ltd
Arriva London South Ltd
Arriva Southern Counties
Arriva The Shires & Essex
CentreWest London Buses Ltd
CT Plus
First Capital East Ltd
Go Ahead Blue Triangle Buses Ltd
Go Ahead London Central Bus Co Ltd
Go Ahead Dockland Buses Ltd
Go Ahead London General Transport Services Ltd
Go Ahead Northumberland Park
London Sovereign Ltd
London United Busways Ltd
Metrobus Ltd
Metroline Travel Ltd
Stagecoach in London – East London Bus & Coach Co Ltd
Stagecoach in London – East London bus Ltd, Thameside
Stagecoach in London – South East London & Kent Bus Co Ltd

Drivers vote for action over Olympic bonus

Unite members on London buses have voted for industrial action over the Olympic bonus by a ratio of more than nine to one, on a 38% turnout. The ballot allows the union to name a date for a strike, but it has yet to do so. Unite said it was giving the 21 bus companies a final opportunity to consider the "landslide" ballot result before announcing possible strike dates early this week.
Unite official Peter Kavanagh said that negotiations had been going on for a year: "Our members are only asking for an extra £17 a day, which will just about buy you a pint of beer and a portion of fish and chips at the Olympics. Our members want the Games to be a success, but their patience has run out. Every single London transport worker will receive a reward to recognise their major contribution to this historic occasion except for bus workers. This dispute could be brought to an end now if the bus companies and TfL have the will to provide the relatively small amount of money compared to the billions being spent on the Games."
The bus operators argue that they cannot afford extra payments under the strict terms of their contracts with the mayor's transport authority. TfL has said the payments are a matter for operators.

8 Jun 2012

Jersey strike called off

The strike by Connex drivers was called off late yesterday, just hours before they were due to walk out. Drivers, represented by Unite, had been pressing for a 6% pay rise and had rejected an offer of 2.5%.  
The strike was to be the first of a series of walkouts, but last-minute talks between the union and bus operator Connex resulted in an agreement to cancel the strike. They issued a joint statement saying they expect to conclude negotiations by tomorrow.

7 Jun 2012

Jersey drivers announce two more strike days

Connex staff in Jersey will walk out later today, for 25 hours. Their union Unite said despite its best efforts, the parties had not been able to agree on this year's pay and more strikes will follow on 14 and 25 June. A union representative said: "Based on the terms of the bus contract with TTS, we know the company received an index linked increase in funding in October 2011 and will receive a further increase in October 2012. 
"We believe these payments equate to approximately £8million per annum... The membership feels the company could well afford our pay claim which is normally based on the January Retail Price Index."

6 Jun 2012

Jersey drivers to strike over pay

Bus workers employed by Connex in Jersey are to strike from Thursday night for 25 hours. The action is being carried out by members of the Unite union over pay. About 12,000 people use the 82 buses on the island each day. Connex's contract to run the bus services will terminate at the end of 2012, when CT Plus will take over.