Over 150 bus workers marched in central London on Thursday of last week in protest at unequal pay and conditions. The Unite union, which represents the workers, is demanding joint negotiations with over a dozen companies over conditions in London’s bus garages.
“New drivers are being let down by these companies,” said Mohammed, a driver at Willesden garage. “They’re squeezing everything they can out of them.”
Since privatisation in the mid-1990s London bus workers have seen their conditions attacked. Intense competition for lucrative routes has boosted profits and slashed workers’ pay.
Workers within the same company can now be on several different rates of pay. A Unite rep from north west London told Socialist Worker, “Some companies won’t let new starters progress to higher pay levels. “But why shouldn’t they get the same as experienced drivers? ...They’re picking up the same people and doing the same job.”
One driver from Silvertown garage in east London told Socialist Worker, “In my garage drivers can be paid up to £4 an hour difference... Whenever a company takes over they fiddle our terms. I used to work for First but now it’s Go Ahead. When they took over they got rid of final salary pensions.”
A driver from Lea Interchange was clear what needs to happen, telling Socialist Worker, “We need to strike—the bosses have to know we mean business.” United action can win. In 2012 solid strikes forced bosses to pay a £500 bonus for working during the Olympics. However many believed more could have been won.
If Transport for London can force all companies to introduce cashless payments they, and company bosses, can be forced to negotiate one rate for the job across the capital.