“Insulting.” That was the most common response from workers at East London Bus Group (ELGB) as they voted by a huge margin to throw out a new pay offer in December.
The drivers sent a clear message of defiance to their bosses by voting 1,482 to 159 to reject a rotten deal that would have involved selling hard-won terms and conditions for a one-off cash payment.
Over 2,000 workers at ELGB struck for three days in November – with hundreds joining the picket lines.
The impact of the strikes, and the threat of more action, forced bosses to come back with a new offer.
But management seemed to think that by offering a cash bribe of £850 just days before Christmas, they could persuade workers to accept the slashing of overtime rates, loss of a day’s holiday and cuts in allowances for rest days.
They underestimated the feeling among the workforce.
“It’s a rubbish deal,” a Unite union member at the company’s giant West Ham garage told Socialist Worker.
“Do they think we are stupid? First they offer us a pay freeze and then this.”
Many drivers felt that it was a mistake to suspend planned strikes to ballot over the offer. The mood was there to keep fighting.
And the fight may now spread.
Drivers at ELGB’s sister company, Selkent, are currently balloting for action – creating the possibility of joint strike action involving thousands of bus workers across London and Kent.
Managers at both companies – which are owned by Macquarie, Australia’s largest investment bank – are still trying to impose a pay freeze.
The union needs to keep up the momentum and get the strike action back on.