By Sam Ord
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Drivers feel ‘fooled’ after Unite union ends Abellio strikes

The Abellio workers in south London wanted £20 an hour—but union leaders ended their fight after settling for less
Issue 2842
Four Abellio strikers on a picket line cheer. One has her fist in the air

Union membership among the south London Abellio workers increased during the dispute (Picture: Guy Smallman)

After more than 20 days of strikes Unite union leaders have cancelled the Abellio bus strike in south London. But the deal is below their demand for £20 an hour, and the package as a whole, including overtime rates, will see pay rise less than inflation for many.

Workers, who rejected the deal two weeks ago, say that they have been “fooled” by the union. What was thought to be an indicative online survey on whether to accept it or to escalate strikes, turned out to be a ballot.

One driver said, “We balloted twice rejecting the offer, then Unite said there is a survey out which we need to vote for in order to work out how to progress with strikes, which turned out to be an official ballot. How can this happen?” 

Another driver said, “I’m so upset right now about our result, as are the rest of the members.” Their colleague added it’s a “shambolic state of affairs”. 

Abellio bosses sent a letter to drivers on Friday of last week before Unite officials left negotiations. It said, “Following the successful ballot result today, accepting the 13.5 percent pay deal and other improvements to the schedules, the industrial dispute has come to an end and strikes concluded.

“As a result, rest day working is reinstated with immediate effect for all drivers. We look forward to working together to rebuild ­relationships and the business.”

Many workers are rightly angry at the union for playing fast and loose with their dispute. Union membership among the Abellio workers grew during the strike from 950 to almost 2,000.

Now many new members have been left feeling betrayed by the officials. The workers’ action did achieve some further gains that will improve scheduling agreements within the next six months. There are further talks between the union and bosses on Monday.

New drivers’ pay has been boosted from £13.09 to £15.05 an hour. Those with over two years’ experience will receive £18, up from £15.22. Saturday and Sunday pay will be £15.47 and £18.80 respectively.

But the strike was weakened by repeated undemocratic decisions by the Unite bureaucracy. Strikes were called off for ballots and for talks—even when no new deal had been presented.

And the delays between strikes started to have an effect with reports of over 60 percent of services running from two garages on the most recent strike day. Escalating the strikes could have won a better, fairer pay deal.

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