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.