London United bus drivers in the west and south of the capital have stepped up their pay fight after talks with bosses failed.
The Unite union members work for a subsidiary of the RATP multinational. This operates in 13 countries across four continents.
Bosses are on the attack with plans to cuts wages by up to £2,500 a year and also force some drivers to work longer hours.
Strikes were postponed last week to allow negotiations to take place. But they went nowhere.
Workers struck on Wednesday and Thursday this week and plan strikes on the next two Wednesdays.
In addition, drivers at both Stamford Brook and Hounslow Heath have voted to join the strikes. It will mean that further strikes beginning on Thursday 15 April will involve London United drivers at all seven of its garages.
The five depots already taking strike action are Fulwell, Hounslow, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush and Tolworth garages.
One driver based at Shepherd’s Bush garage told Socialist Worker, “We’re all annoyed, we tried to get a pay rise before the pandemic hit, but we were told there wasn't enough money.”
Another driver added, “We know they have the money, they're just trying to shut us up. Most of us haven't had a pay rise in the past three or four years.
“It's expensive to live and work in this area of London, I don't know how RATP expects drivers to keep working for them.
“Other garages owned by RATP have now secured better pay, but we haven't got anything. It's hard to strike right now, with Covid and everything but what else can we do?”
Three weeks ago RATP worldwide announced its 2020 results. Despite what management called a year of “successive crises (strikes, Covid-19)” the firm posted turnover of £4,700 million.
Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy said the drivers “Will not allow RATP to use the cover of the Covid pandemic to downgrade their pay and conditions.
“RATP is an extremely wealthy company, that has made numerous investments throughout the UK and Europe over the past 18 months and it can easily afford to treat our members fairly.
“The planned attacks on workers’ conditions are simply about boosting profits now and in the future.”
However, strikes were called off at other RATP subsidiaries, London Sovereign and Quality Line following a deal.
London Sovereign drivers voted to accept a pay increase of 1.25 percent and a one-off payment of £500. This is just 0.5 percent greater than what was originally offered.
There were significant votes against the offer. But many drivers didn’t have the confidence to fight on without explicit union encouragement.
Quality Line drivers are the lowest paid in London. They voted to accept a one percent pay, an increase up from 0.5 percent, this equates to just 14 pence an hour extra.
RATP gloated that it was “pleased to have reached a mutually beneficial settlement with London Sovereign staff last week, in addition to the settlement previously reached with Quality Line staff.”
Bus drivers have been under huge pressure during Covid-19. It’s an insult they now face attacks when they should be getting pay rises.
Unite must encourage strikes, coordinated if possible, to hit back—and not accept half-measures.