13 Jul 2012

Lessons of the dispute over Olympic bonus

The bus bosses, transport for London (tfL) and Boris Johnson have been forced to sit up and take notice of London busworkers. The London-wide strike on 22 June and the threat of more action on 5 and 24 July forced them to make an improved offer. It comes despite previous claims that there was no money for an Olympic bonus for busworkers.
Busworkers will vote on the offer on Tuesday (17 July).
However the vote goes, one lesson has to be made clear—when the buses stop so does London. It’s strike action that has made progress on the Olympic bonus. Similar hard hitting action, could win more victories on pay and halt bosses attacks on conditions too.

Details of the offer
There’s talk of the Olympic bonus payment being paid per rostered duty completed. The figure being put around is £27.50 per duty. This would be a gross (before tax) payment. Apparently there could be some extra cash for workers from TfL’s 50/50 revenue split too.
A per duty payment would mean that what you actually get would depend on what you worked over the Olympics.
It’s worth remembering that DLR workers got £900, Network Rail got £500, Heathrow Express £700, London Overground £600 and Unite members on the tubes at least £850.
However the bonus is calculated— London busworkers should get as a minimum the £500 (plus £100 for strikers) the union demanded. 

More action is an option
If that’s not on offer then more action is an option. One strike got this far, couldn’t a second get all the way? The fact that the union has forced the employers to make a serious offer is a massive step forward, a real achievement by everyone involved. 

Whatever the result of next week’s ballot rank and file busworkers have to get organised to make sure the battle over bonuses is just the start of a wider war. A victory in the bonus fight should kick start a campaign by Unite against low pay and attacks on conditions.

10 Jul 2012

Stagecoach gets cold feet in Devon

Stagecoach has scrapped plans to buy a Devon bus business from rival FirstGroup after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the deal to the competition regulator. Stagecoach had initially agreed the £2.8 million acquisition of FirstGroup's North Devon and Torridge bus business in March. The move by the OFT comes after Britain's bus industry was singled out for its lack of competition by the mergers regulator in December last year.

4 Jul 2012

New busworker meeting in Ladbroke Grove

Things are moving fast in the fight for an Olympic bonus. It looks like the operators are starting to cough up under pressure of the strikes. Come and discuss how we can press home our advantage. 
Building the fightback on London’s buses
Monday 16 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?

Tomorrow's London strike suspended for talks

Tomorrow’s London-wide bus strike has been suspended for talks after bosses offered to fund a Olympic bonus for bus workers by sharing profits made during the games. 
The Unite union announced two new strike datesd two new strike dates last week following its successful strike on 22 June. The action scheduled for Tuesday 24 July is still on. 
Bus workers are demanding a payment of at least £600 after tax to compensate for an increased workload during the Olympics and wages lost due to the 22 June strike. The new offer from Transport for London (TfL) involves funding the bonus by splitting profits made during the Olympics 50-50 with bus workers. 

The small print
If shared out equally among all bus workers in London this would amount to £583 each before tax, according to Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director for surface transport. Press reports suggest the deal offers £700 to bus workers. But this is conditional on the union accepting that only workers “directly affected” by the games get a bonus. It also only applies to those who work 24 of the 29 days in the Olympics period. Those who work fewer days, such as part-timers or workers on a four day week, would get a lot less.
Finally, all the sums TfL are quoting are gross figures, before tax and other deductions. Once these are factored in, the offer drops by around £100 per worker. Such a deal doesn’t look good enough. 

More can be won
Unite was right to call the 22 June strike and right to refuse the latest offer. But the union would be in a stronger position if it had not called off the strike this week—or dropped its legal action against three bus companies that used court injuctions to stop the 22 June strike. 
There have been months to settle this dispute—yet TfL, the private bus operators and London’s Tory mayor Boris Johnson all refused to talk to the union. They thought that bus workers wouldn’t fight back. They were wrong. The 22 June action took them by surprise and hit bus services hard across the capital. 
It has also helped regenerate rank and file networks of bus workers. They want to use the bonus fight to kick off a wider battle against low pay and poor working conditions on the buses. So this dispute is about more than just the Olympics. It has the potential to transform the organisation and power of London’s 20,000 bus workers. The union should fight on—and call more strikes if necessary.

2 Jul 2012

Busworker meeting in Tottenham

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

After the strike...
Building the fightback on London’s buses
Wednesday 4 July, 7pm
@ Kitap Evi Cafe (upstairs)
410 Tottenham High Road, London N17 9JB

• 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.

A response to management rumours about bonus

Unite accused the employers of acting with "gross irresponsibility" by implying workers could gain a £500 bonus under an offer previously made at Acas and rejected out of hand by the union. Unite says the £500 offered by the bus operators was immediately rejected at previous talks as it required its members to work all 29 days of the Olympics and Paralympics to achieve it.
"The reality is that the offer made would give a bus worker just over half of the award claimed, and only then if they worked all their legally rostered shifts over the Olympic period... It beggars belief that the cartel running the capital's transport system can treat a key workforce, drivers, passengers and the visitors to London with such contemptuous disregard."
"We all want the Olympics to succeed but if the bus employers cannot get serious about solving this dispute then we say to the mayor, Boris Johnson, show some leadership, it's what you were elected to do - get on one of your bikes and join these talks now'." More talks between the union and the operators are being held at Acas today.
Press Association