Socialist Worker

Solid London bus strike across 18 companies as workers fight for decent pay

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2439

Bus workers picket line in Camberwelll

Bus workers' picket line in Camberwelll (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The London Bus service was hit hard today, Thursday, as drivers in the Unite union began a 24-hour strike.

Drivers from all 18 of London’s bus companies are taking action to demand equal rates of pay across the board.

There are currently 80 different rates of pay which can see differences of more than £3 an hour for drivers doing the same job.

Striker Bertolo was one of the pickets at the Abellio garage in Battersea.

Up to 70 people joined the picket in Fulwell

Up to 70 people joined the picket in Fulwell (Pic: Richard Donnelley)

He told Socialist Worker, "I could start shift at 4am and have a night shift driver ahead of me being paid £3 an hour more but I'm getting just 9p extra an hour for driving at that time.

"Our wages have been frozen but our director got a £9,000 pay rise last year."


Workers in Battersea share their views with company boss (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Abellio London and Surrey Managing Director Tony Wilson was confronted by strikers at Battersea.

They asked why it was right that drivers should be paid differently, or if he thought it was fair that experience gained by drivers did not go with them should they work for another firm.

He said, "It’s all about providing an open market" and even insisted the system was "good value for the taxpayer".

On Unite's demand for sector wide negotiations he said, "The operators getting together and discussing, agreeing and setting pay rates on a common platform I believe is illegal because it would set up a cartel."

Despite the nonsense of his claim he let slip what his real worry was - that Transport for London (TfL) would "be left with no option" if bus drivers were all paid the same –"They would have to start up themselves" as a bus operator.

Keeping warm in south London

Keeping warm in south London (Pic: Ben Windsor)

Another striker, Pat from Arriva in West Norwood, explained that the drivers were facing other attacks on their conditions.

She said pressure on senior drivers had become more intense as bosses looked to push them out the job and take on newer and cheaper drivers.

"They are disciplining people for silly little things, even if you are a few minutes late, that didn't used to happen," she told Socialist Worker.

The walkout follows a previous 24-hour strike last month. Two more strikes are planned for Friday of next week, and the following Monday.

Unite described TfL’s claim that almost half of London’s bus services were running as “wildly optimistic”.

As many as 70 strikers joined the picket at the Abellio garage in Fulwell.

Striker Donald was optimistic about the drivers’ chances of success. He told Socialist Worker, “We’ve got an impressive number out here and we think it will get some positive results.

“We think the way we are going, we might not need the next two strikes – we might come to some kind of agreement. The picket lines are growing larger and larger.

“If not, we will go again, put on more pressure. There’s always room for moving forward.”

Pickets in Willseden

Pickets in Willseden (Pic: Michael Bradley)

Franklyn from West Norwood agreed that more action could win.

He told Socialist Worker, “We have to stand up and fight this or the next generation of drivers will be worse off. They have given us no choice.

“Really we should make sure nothing moves out of the garages - if that means going all out then that's what we have to do.”

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