Socialist Worker

Bus workers occupy Transport for London office

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2163

London bus workers in the Unite union created a stir by invading Transport For London’s (TFL) office in Southwark today as part of a protest demanding central pay bargaining across all the city’s bus operators.

Around 60 drivers occupied the foyer of the office waving flags, singing slogans about equal pay and dancing to drummers from Unite’s Justice For Cleaners campaign who had joined the protest in solidarity.

Inside the occupied office, one Unite official told cheering drivers, “If there is no equal pay, there will be no peace on the London buses. If TFL won’t listen, they will be met with strikes.”

Earlier in the day over 100 drivers had protested on the green at Marble Arch. Some union members had revealed boxer shorts carrying the slogan “stop the race to the bottom” in reference to the tendering system that is driving down wages and conditions as companies compete to cut costs.

There were delegations from many different companies at the protest. At many bus operators there are currently pay disputes or negotiations underway.

At First, East London Bus Group and Go-Ahead the bosses are attempting to use the recession as an excuse to impose a pay freeze. At other companies there are disputes or campaigns over issues such as canteen facilities, pensions, spy cameras and disciplinaries.

The militancy of today’s protest was a boost to all those fighting in their own garages.

Pay rates currently vary massively across the city. The Unite union says there is now a “real prospect” of strikes across London unless TFL and the bus operators are willing to discuss moving to central pay bargaining.

Joe Welch, Unite convenor from First Capital East told protesting drivers, “We’ve got to make it clear that central pay bargaining is the only way.” Referring to the increasing demands on bus drivers, he added, “They want airline pilots but at bus drivers’ wages.”


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Wed 5 Aug 2009, 16:25 BST
Issue No. 2163
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