More than 400 Dial-A-Ride drivers employed by Transport for London (TfL) held a solid strike for 24 hours on Friday of last week.
The drivers run a door-to-door service for disabled people who are unable to access other forms of public transport.
The workers are members of the Unite union. They are angry that their contracts have been changed without consultation.
This would mean that workers lose the right to have a union rep with them at the first stage of a disciplinary.
The strike was solid across the six Dial-A-Ride depots with lively picketing.
At the largest depot in Woodbury, around 30 people had gathered outside the garage by 8am. Spirits were high and there were cheers as one worker drove up to the picket line, had a discussion with strikers and then eventually turned around and drove away.
The strikers were well prepared – with a gazebo, barbecue, flags and handwritten notices calling for solidarity.
Charlie McPherson, the Unite rep at the depot, told Socialist Worker that the union has grown in recent years and that the action had been well supported.
“We are fighting for our union rights,” he said.
“Many of our regular passengers are very supportive of our action. Lots of them are not happy about what TfL is doing to the service,” he added.
A survey conducted by the Greater London Assembly’s transport committee earlier this year found that around 40 percent of respondents rated the service as poor or very poor. Changes over recent years include centralising all calls to a call centre.
A striker at the Paddington depot explained that this is causing problems for both service users and workers, citing an example where two buses were sent to the same address to pick up a man and his wife. The previous system was based much more on the local knowledge of drivers and such a mistake would not have been made.
And drivers fear that there may be more attacks to come.
“I think the changes are about softening us up for privatisation,” Charlie said.
“I think the managers have been surprised by the strength of our action,” another Dial-A-Ride striker said. “They didn’t expect us to take such a stand over our union rights. But we are standing firm on this one.”
Stagecoach strike ballot
Drivers at the Stagecoach depots in Mansfield and Worksop are balloting for strike over a pay offer of 1.83 percent. The union has rightly condemned the offer as “derisory”.
Jobs cut at Bircham Dyson Bell
Bircham Dyson Bell, the law firm that specialises in legal action against unions to prevent strikes – including London bus unions last year (see Socialist Worker » Legal firm that specialises in action against unions) – has announced 15 job cuts. Perhaps they need a union!