Around 2,500 bus drivers and engineers working at Metroline launched the first major bus strike in London for seven years on Tuesday.
Picket lines across north and north west London were very big - 70 workers in many cases. The drivers and engineers are demanding a rise from the present £10.43 an hour basic to £11 an hour.
The company is offering only £10.80.
At the picket line at Holloway bus garage, striker Geoff told Socialist Worker, “I can earn £500 a week as a driver, but that means working overtime and shifts at really unsocial times. And overtime is only paid at 1.2 times the normal rate.
“We’re way behind what tube drivers get and we won’t close the gap all at once. But we have to start somewhere.
“Driving a bus is a very stressful job and we deserve a living wage.”
Abdul added, “It’s great to see so many workers taking part this morning on the picket. Our T&G union brings us together - black and white, all religions, all sorts of people.
“There is a real feeling that we want to have a go now and win a decent rise. Our supervisors’ wages have risen at a great rate, but for the ordinary worker the wages are too low to even think about buying a house.
“Bus drivers make this city work. We should be respected and valued, and pay is part of that.”
At the Willesden depot, Hirami said, “House prices, rent, gas and electricity charges, council tax - they’re all going through the roof. Our wages have to at least keep up with that.”
Only three of Willesden’s 400 workers crossed the picket line.
Metroline is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore based Comfort Delgro Corporation, the world’s second largest land transport group.
It has just announced profits of £27 million for only three months of this year. It is on target to make £130 million in 2006 - off the backs of people like the Metroline workers.
Further strikes are planned for the next two Mondays.
This is an important battle for bus workers and the wider trade union movement.