Bus workers from across London were set to protest on Wednesday of this week as part of a campaign for central pay bargaining.
The demonstration was called by the Unite union to highlight the fact that drivers and other bus workers across the city face a “race to the bottom”.
Competition between different bus operators drives down the wages and conditions of bus workers.
The demonstration comes during a crucial round of pay disputes with bus companies trying to use the recession to pressure workers into accepting low pay.
First Bus has attempted to impose a national pay freeze on this basis—provoking a series of disputes across the country.
There is clearly a mood in some areas for a fight. Unite members at London United voted by 627 to 132 for strikes in a consultative ballot last week.
Significantly, drivers at Arriva North in London are to ballot on Friday over a one-year pay offer of £616 and a two year offer of £1,400.
The outcome of this could set the tone for pay offers across the city.
The offers are for a one-off payment rather than a percentage increase to the hourly rate.
Arriva wants drivers to believe that this is all it can afford.
But the company has billions of pounds in profits sitting in the bank.
Arriva boasted a 30 percent increase in profits earlier this year, taking revenues to over £3 billion for the first time.
Union reps sent home
Two Unite union representatives at Metroline in north London were sent home without pay last Friday for wearing union T-shirts at work.
Friday is by custom a union day when members get a chance to speak to their reps in the garages.
The union reps involved point out that wearing the Unite T-shirts makes them easily identifiable to their members.
Many drivers see the ruling as an example of management’s petty behaviour. The reps were not out on the road or in contact with the public.
Paul Brandon, one of the reps sent home, pointed out, “It’s not as if we were demanding control of the means of production…we were merely wanting to wear a union T-shirt.”
The crackdown over dress code comes in the context of a new system of monitoring by Transport for London known as QICs2.
These have increased pressure on all drivers by setting targets for appearance and conduct.
Drivers are monitored by “mystery passengers” and companies face heavy fines if performance drops.