Socialist Worker

London bus pay dispute coming to a head

Issue No. 2167

A series of pay disputes at bus companies across London are coming to a head and offer the chance of coordinated strike action.

Bosses at five key companies – First Centre West, First Capital East, East London Bus Group, Go Ahead and CT Plus – are all trying to impose a pay freeze.

Unite union members are not falling for the companies’ claims of poverty and disputes at these operators could lead to strikes. A fightback is badly needed.

A driver from First Capital East told Socialist Worker, “It’s not a pay freeze – it’s a pay cut. This company is still making profits out of us.

“And we are told that if we want to get any sort of pay rise we will have to fund it by accepting cuts elsewhere.”

Another driver explained how at his garage bosses are cutting back on overtime payments to save money.

He said, “Instead of offering drivers who need the cash overtime, the company is asking people to cancel leave or rest days to cover.

“Last year I made about £35,000 with overtime. This year I’ll be lucky to make £20,000. And then they say they want a pay freeze. People only go along with this because they are scared for their jobs.”

The Unite union is campaigning for central pay bargaining across the London buses to stop competition between operators driving down pay and conditions.

However a planned ballot for action over this issue has been postponed.

There is a danger that the campaign will lose momentum, but the disputes under way offer a chance to raise the temperature.

It is likely that bosses will use the law to prevent industrial action.

The union must be prepared to stand up to such threats and defy the anti-union laws.

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