Socialist Worker

Bus drivers in London and Manchester prepare for strikes over pay and fire and rehire

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2742

Bus drivers in London picket during a strike in 2015

Bus drivers in London picket during a strike in 2015 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Thousands of London bus drivers are set to strike over pay and conditions.

The strike will target three subsidiaries of multinational bus operating company RATP—London United, Quality Line and London Sovereign.

The drivers’ Unite union said, “RATP is using the Covid-19 pandemic to attack terms and conditions.”

Workers are set to walk out from 22 February.

Bosses’ proposed contracts will see pay reduced by £2,500 a year and workers forced to work longer hours.

Drivers have also been threatened with the possible introduction of zero hour contracts.

Workers at London United, which operates in South and West London, will strike for three days from Monday 22 February.

Meanwhile, workers at Quality Line, Epsom, will strike on 22 and 23 February. They are paid £2.50 an hour less than drivers at RATP’s other subsidiaries. The workers have been offered a pay “rise” of 0.5 percent—seven pence an hour.

Drivers at London Sovereign in north west London will strike on 22 February. Workers have been offered a pay increase of just 0.75 percent, which is well below what has been offered by other operators.

Pandemic 

Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy, said, “RATP is guilty of using the cover of the pandemic to force through attacks on terms and conditions and table pitiful pay offers.

“RATP has a long history of attacking one group of workers at a time, attempting to slash pay and conditions, before moving onto the next group. Our members are drawing a line in the sand with this dispute.”

‘It feels like we’re sleepwalking into the slaughterhouse’  - bus drivers speak out
‘It feels like we’re sleepwalking into the slaughterhouse’ - bus drivers speak out
  Read More

The union said the strike dates so far are just an initial announcement. If a deal isn't reached quickly, more action will be announced.

Meanwhile, Unite is set separately to ballot over 4,000 workers at Metroline. This is due to a long-running battle with the company over proposals to introduce a remote sign-on system. 

Remote sign-on means drivers do not report to a depot to start work, but meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop. Remote sign-on forces drivers to start work away from the depot, reducing costs and boosting the company's profits.

It means workers don’t have access to a canteen or toilets.

Drivers at Metroline voted overwhelmingly for strikes last autumn. But the union backed off after bosses’ threats to use anti-union laws over the conduct of the ballot. 

There must be no more delays. A united fight by London bus workers could win real gains.


Drivers at Go North get ready for strikes 

Manchester bus drivers working for Go North West are preparing for an all out continuous strike from Sunday 28 February.

The Unite union members are fighting bosses’ plans to fire the entire workforce and rehire it on worse contracts. The proposed plans would axe 10 percent of jobs—and force drivers to work longer hours for no extra pay.

Workers are also angry at proposed changes to the sick pay policy. This would force them to work while sick or when they should be self-isolating for Covid-19.

Workers voted by 82 percent for strikes on a 77 percent turnout. Unite regional secretary, Ritchie James said, “This is an excellent result and underlines the anger of our members. They are being forced by Go North West to choose between their jobs and huge cuts in their pay and conditions.

“Unite is now providing Go North West with a very short window of opportunity, where it can tear up its fire and rehire plans. If the company fails to grasp this opportunity then Unite will not hesitate in calling strikes.

“Unite members have been forced into this position by the company, which has waged an extremely aggressive and hostile campaign against its own workers.”

Unite has also accused bosses of intimidating workers into signing the inferior contracts.

Bosses hand-delivered letters to drivers’ homes. Go North West claims that for “planning and processing purposes” they only have eight days to accept the new contract.

James said, “This is a cynical attempt by managers at Go North West to intimidate and bully workers and their families into accepting these inferior terms. 

“It is simply deplorable that Go North West thinks it is acceptable to send its managers scurrying around Greater Manchester and beyond, hand-delivering threatening letters.”

Unite is investigating whether this broke Covid-19 laws.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.