BUS WORKERS in London were the latest group to join the revolt against low pay as they marched through the capital on Tuesday of last week. Up to 300 workers in the TGWU union from different bus companies marched behind banners from depots across the region. They are demanding the same pay as tube workers.
They know buses are a key part of mayor Ken Livingstone's plans to try to ease the gridlock in London's traffic. For the first time since privatisation in 1985 many bus workers feel they have some power to get better pay and conditions.
Bus workers shouted 'Strike! Strike! Strike!' over their union officials' speeches at the rally outside City Hall, home of the Greater London Assembly. 'There is a massive wage difference between us and the tube workers,' said Stuart Currie, a worker on First Group buses and the union branch chair at Rainham in Essex.
'In our branch a lot of people think the union should be taking more action than they are doing.' Driver Debbie Vancliffe said, 'You would have to work 56 hours to earn the £400 wages that they talk about in those adverts on buses.' Driver Scott Cooper said, 'I've worked 65 hours in the last week to pay my mortgage.
'It's not just about the money. What about things like paternity leave? I had to use up my holidays because my wife was ill having our child. The firms twist and turn the drivers' hours to suit them. So much money goes to the shareholders but not to us.'
The workers drowned out the speech made by national official Graham Stephenson. He ended up saying, 'I've got no problem leading a campaign, including strike action, if the members vote for it.'
TGWU official Peter Kavanagh rescued him by saying, 'Everyone has to take this debate back to the garages - and that isn't backing away.' Bus workers have the green light to raise action over pay in the depots and break through the division between different firms that has dogged union organisation.