Bus workers at two companies owned by the First Group – First Centrewest and First Capital – have voted resoundingly for strike action over a 3.5 percent below-inflation pay offer.
Workers at First Centrewest voted by 89 percent to strike, while those at First Capital voted by 91 percent to strike.
Supervisors at First Capital also voted to strike by 76 percent. Strike dates are expected to be announced this week.
Peter Kavanagh is a senior regional industrial organiser for the Unite union. “These results show the mood that exists among bus workers for uniting around the demand for a common rate of pay and for equal terms and conditions,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The campaign is now moving apace. Workers at a number of large bus companies have clearly shown their intention to fight. First Group looks like it will be the first off the blocks – but a number of others are coming up behind.”
The strike ballots are the latest stage in Unite’s campaign for London’s 28,000 bus workers to be paid an equal and decent wage regardless of which company they work for. Every recent ballot of bus workers has shown the growing mood for action.
Bus workers at Arriva South voted by 90 percent to reject a 4 percent pay offer and to back industrial action. They are now moving towards a full postal ballot over strike action. Some 95 percent of workers at Arriva North rejected the same offer.
Bus workers at Metroline backed industrial action by 98 percent in a consultative ballot at the end of last month. They too are now moving towards a postal ballot.
Meanwhile workers at Metrobus began a postal ballot on Monday of this week over pay, which ends on 1 September. Some 96 percent of Metrobus workers have already rejected a below-inflation pay offer.
London bus workers are currently paid different sums depending on the company they work for. Pay rates can vary from £20,000 to £28,000, including shift allowances, bonuses and unsocial hours payments.
Unite is calling for drivers’ pay to be a minimum of £30,000 a year, or for a 5 percent pay rise, whichever is greater.
But Unite’s campaign is not just about pay. The union is also demanding that bus workers have a maximum of 4.5 hours of continuous driving without a break, that workers work a maximum of 38 hours a week and that drivers have a minimum of 11 hours between shifts.