The Unite union was set to announce a strike ballot of over 2,000 bus drivers at Metroline in north and north west London as Socialist Worker went to press.
The workers are still in dispute over their 2008 pay deal. They struck last October alongside workers at First Group as part of a London‑wide campaign to win either a 5 percent raise or £30,000 a year based on a 38 hour week.
The campaign suffered a setback when the union called off a planned strike by 14,000 bus workers after bosses threatened legal action.
Metroline workers have repeatedly shown that they are willing to fight and voted by a large majority to reject two offers from the company in December.
Many drivers are impatient to get on with strikes.
They have been waiting for over three months for a reballot for action.
Some drivers are angry that it has taken so long to get another ballot and are worried that the dispute now looks set to run into the 2009 pay negotiations.
There are rumours at some of the garages that management may make a new offer of 4.25 percent – 0.25 percent higher than the previous offer – but that this would be funded by attacks in other areas such as sick pay.
Paul Brandon, the Unite rep at Holloway bus garage, told Socialist Worker, “Thankfully the ballot for strike action is coming – we must now use it as a tool to put pressure on the company to offer something that represents new money on the table.”
Some union members point out that the company now believes it has all the aces and just has to wait it out until the workers give in.
But Paul says, “In fact we have the greatest ace of all in terms of collective power.”
The union is in the same position at many other bus companies, with management thinking it can get away with resubmitting the same or similar offers with no real improvements.
Unite reps at Travel London West, part of National Express, were due to meet management this week for pay talks.
Unite rep Selwyn Dhannie told Socialist Worker, “As far as we know there is nothing new on the table – the company said its last offer of 4 percent was the final offer.
“The drivers are asking why we are in talks when they have already voted last year to reject management’s offer.
“The drivers have voted for strikes – we want to know when this is going to happen. There is a lot of confusion, but we are ready for a fight.”
Drivers at Transdev Sovereign were set to meet Unite union officials this week to discuss their pay negotiations and decide whether to go ahead with strike action on 11 February.
Watch this site for updates.