Around 20 striking bus workers at CT Plus in Hackney, east London, braved the freezing cold to join a picket line early this morning. Their numbers were boosted as more strikers joined throughout the day.
This was their second one-day strike over pay after drivers, engineers and office staff overwhelmingly rejected a 2.25 percent offer.
Many workers talked about how managers had been trying to undermine the strike—asking individuals whether they planned to take part, writing to everyone at home to offer £30 for working on the strike day, and trying to break off groups of workers to make separate agreements.
The intimidation had worked on some—and a small number of drivers went in to work.
But the vast majority were standing firm and determined to win.
“We have to stand together—and we have to keep striking,” said one driver who has been at the company for five years. “The company don’t respect us. And there is a lot of propaganda against the union. But we know what we are doing is right.”
The pickets were well prepared—with a gazebo, a heater, hot drinks and snacks. Unite union flags, balloons and placards ensured passers-by knew there was a strike on.
And this was serious picketing—every vehicle going in or out was stopped so that strikers could talk to the driver. A number of vans turned away, rather than cross the picket line.
Jane Roberts, the Unite branch secretary, told Socialist Worker, “I am really proud that our members have stayed strong. The managers thought we would have given up by now. They don’t value the people who work here.”
At around 8am, a group of strikers moved nearer to the main road. Beeping and waves from local traffic showed the level of support from passers-by.
Union activists from other bus companies also joined the picket line to offer support. Steve O’Rourke from Metroline in north London congratulated the strikers on their action.
He went on to explain that Unite is campaigning for one rate of pay across the city. “We plan to take the whole of London out on strike for central pay bargaining—so we can get one rate of pay,” he said.
Drivers at CT Plus are paid several thousand pounds less than workers doing the same job at other companies, and don’t get an overtime or weekend rate. Many drivers pointed out that the 2.25 percent on offer would have little impact on their low pay.
“My rent has just gone up by £9 a week,” one driver told Socialist Worker. “And the cost of living is going up all the time. So what they are offering is already wiped out. And this company has sat on any pay rise for months now and dragged things out. That’s why we have to make a stand.”