Unite union activists representing bus workers across London met on Friday of last week for a crucial discussion on how to take their pay campaign forward.
The dispute has reached a critical moment, with management resorting to legal threats in an attempt to halt the strikes.
The union’s campaign to win equal higher rates of pay across all the London bus companies had already involved several demonstrations and four days of strike action.
Further strike action by thousands of bus workers was then called off after several employers, using the same solicitors, threatened legal challenges to the strike ballots.
Unite is seeking legal advice on how to respond. In the meantime the biggest danger is that the union loses the momentum it has built up over recent months.
The mood among union activists is one of determination – that the campaign must continue and that the employers should be challenged.
Last week’s meeting agreed that the union should reballot members if necessary.
Action such as demonstrations and lobbies could help keep the pressure on the companies and on Transport for London – both over pay and against the anti-union laws.
Unite rep Paul Brandon, who was at Friday’s meeting, told Socialist Worker, “It is important we maintain momentum up to the point where we reballot.
“We must build a number of activities that send a strong message to the companies – we are still fighting and will not be giving in.”
It is also vital that union members are informed and involved in all decisions.
There are signs that some companies may try to seize the moment to separate off groups of workers.
Metrobus, which won an injunction from the high court to stop its 1,000 drivers from joining the last strike day, has now offered a slightly higher pay offer – clearly in the hope that workers will settle.
The campaign to date has shown the courage of rank and file bus workers. The strikes have been marked by mass pickets and deep anger over years of low pay, long hours and lack of respect.
Workers should make sure that the union focuses this determination and regains the initiative.