Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/637/10177
London bus workers fight cuts
The London Bus Campaign will stage a rally outside City Hall on 15 September to oppose cuts in services, fare increases and reductions in contract prices. The London bus industry, which receives significant public subsidy, will not escape the Con-Dem government's full frontal assault.
A London bus driver
The London bus industry has seen big improvements in recent years. We see fleets of new buses and improved infrastructure. Even bus workers until recently have seen a significant reversal of the massive pay cuts that took place before the privatisation of London buses in 1994-5.
This good news is far from universal. Passengers still face long and unpredictable waits at the bus stop. Many still endure the misery of overcrowded and slow journeys to work. Within the garages, where canteens still exist they are more expensive and inferior and the canteen workers are on poor pay and conditions.
Bus privatisation took place in London a decade after the rest of Britain. Margaret Thatcher's Tory government feared chaos on the capital's public transport system - and what that might do to the wider economy. A higher proportion of Londoners rely on public transport than elsewhere.
Workers' leaders were "persuaded" to accept a one-third pay cut and to smash the militancy of a generation of bus workers. These developments coincided with other changes, like the expansion of one-person operated routes to make the industry profitable to private business.
A massive public subsidy and strict regulation made expansion possible. Big private companies now make considerable profits from this public service.
Transport for London (TfL), the state-owned regulator, not only handed out the routes to firms at attractive and profitable rates. Bus lanes and congestion charging freed up the routes to the great advantage of those operators.
London buses are under threat as never before. Planned cuts in all areas of government spending will severely affect TfL and London buses in particular. Cuts will bring the battles even Thatcher in the 1980s knew she had to avoid.
In The Socialist 9 September 2010:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review