Thousands of bus workers in London have thrown their weight behind the Unite union’s growing pay campaign.
At almost all the major bus operators in London drivers have now voted to reject recent pay offers by margins in excess of 90 percent.
Coordinated action between workers at different companies now looks increasingly likely – with possible strikes later this month involving workers at First Centrewest, First Capital and Metrobus.
The union is fighting for an equal rate of pay but also to win a 36-hour week and better breaks for drivers at all the London companies.
Joint action is important to address the injustice of different companies offering vastly different pay for the same job.
Drivers’ wages in London can vary by up to £6,000 a year.
Buses are big business and operators are determined to drive down wages and conditions in an attempt to cut costs and maximise profits.
The competitive tendering system means bus companies compete with each other to win bus routes – creating what Unite calls the “race to the bottom”.
Despite widespread support for returning transport to public ownership, London’s Tory mayor Boris Johnson is unwilling to challenge the tendering system or the profits of the bus operators.
But former Labour mayor Ken Livingstone also failed to return the buses to public ownership during his time in office.
As a First Bus striker told Socialist Worker on Friday of last week, “We do a vital job every day for thousands of people going to work or school, visiting relatives or getting to the doctors.
“We should get decent pay and respect for that job. But it should be a public service – not a way for companies to get rich quick.”
Coordinated action is the most effective way to fight for pay.
This will have a huge impact and can help to undermine the competition between companies.
It can also help to raise wider questions about the future of transport in London and beyond.