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Bus drivers reject offer to build fight for more

This article is over 1 years, 3 months old
Bus drivers have rejected the latest deal offered to them by the bosses and have vowed to keep on fighting
Issue 2840
Abellio bus workers on the picketline showing peace sign gestures

Abellio bus drivers are clear they want to keep on striking (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Some 1,900 bus drivers employed by Abellio in south London were set to strike from Wednesday to Friday this week after rejecting an offer that was recommended by their union, Unite. The offer would see those with less than two years experience secure a 15 percent pay rise to £15.05 per hour.

More experienced bus drivers would have obtained a pay rise of 18.3 percent to £18 an hour. But the deal will also mean that overtime pay and pay for unsociable hours will be the same as basic pay. 

That’s one reason why the deal was rightly rejected.  Unite leaders said, “Our view is that this is the best agreement that can be negotiated without further significant and prolonged periods of industrial action.”

But workers made it clear they were unhappy with the new offer and rejected it by 737 votes to 395. One driver who voted to reject the deal told Socialist Worker, “There are two reasons I could not accept.

“I would only get around 45p an hour extra for working at night on the weekend, compared to during the week.  “And for new drivers the deal isn’t good.”

He explained that many of his colleagues want the same rate of pay for new and more experienced drivers, or at the very least a larger pay rise for newer drivers.

At the basic rate drivers with under two years of experience “would get less than older drivers did before the strike and pay rise”, he explained. He also said some of his colleagues on the picket line are questioning why their initial demand for £20 an hour is being ignored.

There is plenty of money in Abellio’s pockets to pay workers extra for overtime and to increase basic pay to £20 an hour.  The company recorded profits of £350 million in 2021.

The workers have taken to picket lines 20 times already, and they have made it very clear they are willing to keep fighting. The rejection of this latest offer should send a message to Unite leaders. 

Now is the time for workers to escalate to an all out strike to win what they deserve. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite is unstinting in its commitment to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and the workforce at Abellio will continue to receive the union’s unwavering support.”

But that does not sit well with trying to push through an unpopular deal. The workers’ networks that saw the latest offer thrown out now have to redouble their fight to keep control of the dispute and stop some revamped version of the same deal presented again.

Call more rail action

The RMT continues to delay strikes on the railways as they tip toe around the bosses’ rubbish offer for workers employed by 14 train operating companies. The offer should have been thrown out immediately and met with a wave of strikes. 

The key details of the deal would see just a 5 percent pay rise or £1,750 increase for last year and 4 percent for this year.  All station ticket offices will close or be “repurposed”, Sunday working will become mandatory, and there will be a two-tier pay structure for some new entrants. 

The bosses are continuing their attacks on workers’ conditions. This is not the time for a pause in the workers’ fightback.  It’s time to escalate.

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