Thousands of bus workers in west and east London are striking today over pay – making a huge impact on services at one of the biggest companies in the city.
Hundreds of strikers, members of the Unite union, joined picket lines outside the nine garages.
The drivers at First Centrewest and First Capital East are striking over pay after rejecting a 3.5 percent pay offer. Supervisors at First Capital East also joined the strike.
The strike was extremely solid with only a small handful of drivers going in across the company.
Several bus workers joined the union on the picket lines so that they could be part of the strike.
At the Dagenham garage in east London, strikers said that 80 percent of engineers didn't cross the picket line.
At Westbourne Park in west London, some 200 drivers joined the picket line and not one bus had gone out by 9am. Strikers whistled and cheered as passers-by beeped their horns in support.
One striker told Socialist Worker, 'Today we are making our voice heard – by the company, the politicians and the mayor. We don't get any respect for the important and stressful job we do.'
Another driver added, 'We work 50 or 60 hours every week just to make up the money to survive. All we do is work and sleep. Meanwhile the company is making huge profits out of our work.'
Around 100 workers joined the picket line at Lea Interchange in Leyton, east London. The strike was very solid and the pickets were in great spirits. One striker told Socialist Worker, 'We've had enough. We don't get any credit for the work we do. Our bills are all rising. That's why we have to fight.'
There were spirited picket lines of over 40 people at Willesden Junction and Alperton in west London and at Dagenham in east London. At Dagenham by 7.30am no buses had left – normally 180 buses would be on the road by that time.
At Willesden Junction, Lloyd, the garage rep and Joan, the branch chair said, 'We are striking for better pay. The offer that was made was below inflation. The union is giving full support and today we have both the east and west London garages out at the same time.'
Managers at Northumberland Park garage in Tottenham, north London, called the police in an attempt to intimidate the pickets. Despite the police allowing only six official pickets a group of more than 80 strikers joined in on the other side of the road. Spirits ran high and all the strikers said they were determined to see the dispute through.
The strike is part of Unite's London wide campaign for a 5 percent rise or a drivers' wage of £30,000, whichever is highest. Strikers at many picket lines were encouraged to hear that workers at other bus companies in London are balloting for action.
The Unite rep at Dagenham, Peter Damiano, told Socialist Worker, 'This is not just about money – it's about how the drivers have been treated. We'd like to see coordinated action when the other ballot results come out and to have everyone out all together.'
The workers are set to strike again for 48 hours on the 12 and 13 September.
Thanks to Roger Cox, Helga Bastianello, Roddy Slorach and Senan Mortell for additional reporting.