Thousands of London bus workers in the Unite union look set to take part in united strike action in the second half of October.
Official strike ballots open this week at East London Buses and Arriva South.
Balloting at Metroline, another major London company, is already under way. The ballot closes on Thursday of this week.
Drivers at several other London companies are moving towards a formal ballot. Consultative ballots have repeatedly shown over 90 percent in favour of strike action at garages across the city.
The ballots are part of a campaign by the Unite union to win equal higher pay and better conditions across all the London bus operators. The union is asking for a 5 percent rise or a £30,000 wage – whichever is higher.
Pay at different operators can vary by up to £6,000 a year as companies race to cut costs in order to win routes from Transport for London.
Paul Brandon, a Unite union rep at Metroline’s Holloway bus garage in North London, told Socialist Worker, “The drivers are prepared to take strike action not only to improve their pay and conditions but also to get people to sit up and take notice of the fact that the London bus system is unfair and needs changing.”
One of the effects of the campaign has been to encourage rank and file activists to organise to ensure that they can be part of the action.
Drivers at Sovereign, a company with garages in Harrow and Edgware, last month voted to reject management’s pay offer – overturning their union reps’ recommendation to accept the deal.
Pressure from drivers has pushed the union into holding an indicative strike ballot this week. Drivers say they hope to begin a formal ballot in time to strike alongside the other companies in October.
One driver at Sovereign told Socialist Worker, “We have put out leaflets to explain why we should be part of the united London campaign. We have made new links between drivers from the two garages.
“We expect to win a big vote for strike action.”
Watch this site for updates on the ballots