Some 300 bus workers employed by Sovereign in north west London are set to strike on Monday of next week and again on 11 February.
The drivers, who are paid the lowest rates in London, held a lively and solid strike two weeks ago. They are fighting for better pay and conditions – and have rejected an offer that works out as less than 4 percent on basic pay.
After the last strike, management increased pressure on drivers to individually sign up to the pay offer.
Unite union activists held meetings to explain to drivers why they should not sign – and to build up confidence and organisation for further action.
The company then imposed the pay offer on all drivers. This is a serious challenge to the union – one that is being met with strike action.
Now management has offered a series of concessions in recent negotiations with the union. Abdul Omer, the Unite rep at the Harrow garage, told Socialist Worker, “There is a determined mood and we are already preparing for the picket line – where we will have food, drink and live music.
“We can see that our strikes are having an impact. A few drivers signed management’s letter about the deal – they now say that they were wrong.”
Drivers suspect that one of the reasons the company has felt able to try to bypass the union is that, up until last year, the union had nodded through all management plans.
Grassroots activists had to fight hard to win a union that stands up to the company and represents the drivers.
During the last strike, many local trade unionists visited the picket lines to offer solidarity to the drivers. This support is important to maintaining the dispute.
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Thousands of London bus drivers at Metroline, First Centre West, First Capital East, East London Bus Group, Transport London West and Metrobus are set to reballot for fresh strikes in the campaign to win higher and equal pay across the city.
After two days of strikes last autumn, action was suspended in the face of threats of legal action.
Management at Metrobus has now also imposed a pay deal on the workers.
Unite union members are angry that the company – which was the first to run to the courts to stop strike action last year – has again ignored the clear feeling of the workers.
A driver at Metroline’s Cricklewood garage told Socialist Worker, “We have voted over and over again to say we want a better offer and are willing to strike.
“The union really needs to stop dragging its feet over this ballot otherwise there is a danger that people will give up on the campaign.”