29 Jan 2015

London-wide bus strikes escalate

Unite announced three more 24 hour London-wide bus strikes yesterday. The stoppages are on Thursday 5 February, Friday 13 February and Monday 16 February. They follow a continued refusal by London’s 18 bus operators to enter into collective talks over ending pay disparities. A 24 hour strike in January saw bus services across the capital brought to a standstill as over 20,000 bus workers walked out. 

One rate for the job
Unite regional officer Wayne King said: “Bus passengers pay one fare, so why don’t bus drivers get paid the same rate for doing the same job? We urge London’s bus operators to see sense and collectively engage in talks to give London’s bus workers a fair deal.” 
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. Drivers’ pay can differ by £3 per hour, from £9.30 to £12.34.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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. 


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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.