Socialist Worker

Why won't Sadiq Khan play fare with workers?

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2521

Pickets on the first Tower Transit walkout last month

Pickets on the first Tower Transit walkout last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Tower Transit bus depots in east and west London walked out for 24 hours on Monday. It was their third one-day strike in as many weeks—and they’re set to come out again next Monday.

Just like the previous strike, bosses could barely get 12 percent of buses in service for the morning rush, with only a handful of scabs and managers at work.

But one Unite union rep said “the company is not budging”. That’s no surprise. Harder hitting action is needed.

Tower Transit boss Neil Smith told strikers as much three weeks ago in a torrent of abuse. He said, “Go on strike for a month and I will make no concessions.”

The union should call his bluff instead of letting him call theirs. That means escalating action, serious strike pay and a call for wider solidarity from the trade union movement.


One driver told Socialist Worker, “The union needs to put some real money behind this dispute. We’ve paid our subs—some of us for a long time. What’s the use of that money sitting in the bank?”

Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport for London (TfL) should also face pressure. Khan took credit this week for launching a new “hopper” fare allowing two journeys within an hour.

But he made pledges to bus drivers too—about a “new one rate for all” wage structure that has failed to materialise.

Bus workers could ask why public cash is going to a private firm that refuses to negotiate with their union properly and attempts to intimidate pickets. Is this what Khan meant when he said he would be “the most pro-business mayor London has ever had”?

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Dispute hit by delays over reballot

Bus workers in Weymouth ended a six-day strike last Sunday in their long running battle against poverty pay. It is 12 weeks since the strikes began.

Their walkout against First Group has seen bosses pump hundreds of thousands of pounds into a scabbing operation.

The workers are paid £8.80 an hour—70p less than First Group workers in Yeovil and nearly £2 less than drivers at rival firms in Bournemouth.

Unite has told the workers they must now reballot to strike again.

There are restrictions on workers’ rights after a 12-week strike period under Tory anti-union laws but it does not mean it is illegal to strike.

Its purpose is to sap momentum with delays between strikes.

Unite said it could now be “several weeks before the result of the next industrial action ballot is known, which could see strikes continuing into the Christmas period”.

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