Socialist Worker

‘Bosses don’t care about our health,’ say striking London bus drivers

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2743

Strikers were in high spirits at the Park Royal garage in west London

Strikers were in high spirits at the Park Royal garage in west London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The London bus drivers’ strike over pay and working conditions continued to enrage the bosses on Wednesday.

Around 2,200 Unite union members walked out on Monday in three branches of the outsourced bus operating company RATP—London United, Quality Line and London Sovereign. The action significantly reduced bus services from the depots in west and south London.

Managers were seen operating buses in an attempt to maintain service.

Workers at London United could face pay cuts of £2,500 a year, reducing wages to 2015 levels, if a new contract is introduced.

Quality Line drivers currently earn £2.50 per hour less than other RATP branches. The new contracts will see a measly pay increase of just seven pence an hour.

London Sovereign workers will strike again on 3 and 10 March.

Alan, Unite rep at the Fulwell branch, told Socialist Worker, “Our pay is being taken away from us and I don't know why they'd do that at this particular time.

“Especially as most of us have been working full time throughout the pandemic. We've lost a few friends and had people in this garage get very ill with coronavirus.

“It's sad to see and the company just doesn't respect that in fact—they are punishing us.

“They know it's a service run by people, but they say that it's actually a business and that's where the problem lies.

“The health of the workers isn't considered, it's just a business decision.

He added, “The new contract will take away our daily allowance, safety allowance as well as extending our unpaid meal break to an hour. This can add up to £2,500 lost a year.

“Meanwhile the bosses have been given big bonuses and rewarded their shareholders.

“Once upon a time, London United used to be one of the best companies to work for. They’re one of the worst now.”

Threatened 

The union also says that bosses have threatened drivers with zero hour contracts. Unite regional officer for RATP Michell Braveboy said, “The dispute regarding the zero contract hours has also not been resolved.

“Our members have no option other than to fight back against these attacks, while recognising the disruption caused.”

Stop the deaths of London bus drivers
Stop the deaths of London bus drivers
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Another driver in north west London told Socialist Worker, “It's hard to be out on strike this time of year.

“But it's just one thing after another since the service was sold to RATP.

“Being up against the virus has been challenging for everyone. There's the physical health side of it but, also not being able to have job security in a challenging time affects our mental health.”

Meanwhile, around 400 Manchester bus drivers plan an all-out continuous strike against a fire and rehire plan from Sunday.

Go North bosses want to sack and rehire the workers on worse contracts, which would include a 10 percent pay cut.

The Unite union members had voted by 82 percent for strikes.

Bus drivers have seen first-hand how bosses put profit before health and work conditions. The strikes have the power to challenge the bosses. 

New strike details: London Sovereign subsidiary who operate routes in North West London, one day strike on Wed 3 March, further strikes Wed 10 March and Wed 17 March.  London United strike on Fri 5 March and Saturday 6 March. The drivers operate routes across South and West London. Quality Line, based at its depot in Epsom Surrey, will also strike on Fri 5 March and Sat 6 March.


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