Visiting a picket line should be included in one of those “50 things to do before you die” lists.
Forget about trekking up Kilimanjaro or ballooning over the Atlantic, workers should be encouraged to travel to picket lines with food, drink and a whip-round from their workplace.
This is what I did last Saturday when I visited the picket line of First drivers at Westbourne Park bus garage in west London during their second day of strike action.
Following a collection made among fellow bus drivers at Holloway bus garage – who were not on strike as they work for another company – and with a donation from our Unite union branch, I went armed with a cheque.
Handing it over and speaking with the drivers is something I won’t ever forget.
To visit the picket line was to experience humour, courage, wisdom, solidarity and endurance alongside an insight into the ongoing struggle on the buses and resistance in modern day Britain.
Bus drivers on the picket line left me in no doubt they want a London-wide strike and see this as the only way to
create the kind of impact required to shake up an unfair system.
There is a sense of the inevitable – that our time is now.
I’m also in no doubt that the bus companies and the
politicians do not understand the bus drivers’ strength of feeling. Perhaps they should visit a picket or two. The message would be clear.
The headlines may have been grabbed by the calls for a standard wage across London of £30,000 for a 38-hour week, but there is something deeper and more profound underway.
Privatisation over the last 20 years has created a sense of unfairness, coupled with a culture of long working hours and pay that doesn’t reflect demanding work in a city that’s expensive, stressful and – for a bus driver – increasingly dangerous.
Something very profound is going to need to happen with a major rethink on how the buses are run in London to bring about a lasting settlement.
As the rebellion spreads, and all the signs are it will, London will be engulfed.
A new transport plan is required along with a very significant change of direction, one that delivers real and lasting justice to all bus workers in London.
Paul Brandon is a Unite rep at Holloway bus garage