Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/543/6307
London bus drivers' protest
Decent pay for all
End the race to the bottom
Generally the public are alright. When they understand what bus workers face, they are on our side. Most bus workers do a six-day week to make ends meet. Sometimes we're pushed to the legal limit of five and a half hours driving without a break. There are horrible shifts and a lack of toilet facilities. Before I did this job, I wondered why bus drivers are so grumpy. Now I'm surprised we're not worse!
A London bus worker
Pay at different London bus firms varies widely. Bosses say they must drive down costs to compete for Transport for London routes. Their main 'cost' is our wages. One of the main purposes of the privatisation of London Bus in the mid-1990s was to break bus workers' unity - 'divide and rule'.
Hundreds of us will be demonstrating noisily across Tower Bridge to City Hall on Thursday 24 July. It's not a strike, so most of London's 28,000 bus workers will be working. Our union, Unite, is calling for one equally high rate of pay for all London bus workers to end the 'race to the bottom' between competing bus firms.
Over the last couple of years bus workers in some companies have taken industrial action over the attacks on pay and conditions. Further strikes seem very likely at some London bus garages this year. Those in other firms will soon demand the same when they see only united action can win a decent wage for us all.
Bus driving can be a very frustrating job - if you let it wind you up. The slow-moving traffic doesn't particularly worry me - it might annoy passengers but I'm not personally going anywhere (unless I'm finishing work). Cars, bikes and pedestrians constantly cut in front of me. They show a confidence in my driving skills and ability to see round corners that astonishes me!
Some drivers become frustrated with passengers ('an empty bus is a happy bus!') and with some passengers the feeling is mutual! All I ask is that they get on and let me do my job. If they board when the bus is already full my bus can't go anywhere.
Rocket science it ain't, but some people want an argument, holding up the bus for everyone. Meanwhile, the empty bus behind serenely glides past!
But it is the attacks on our pay and conditions that really make the job so hard. Socialists try to remove all barriers to the growing demands for united action. In particular, we say it's wrong that our union still gives huge donations to New Labour - a party which upholds privatisation and defends the bosses' attempts to keep pay down. We need a new workers' party.
We say bring London buses back into public ownership - but with democratic control. Take private profit out of public transport!
In The Socialist 22 July 2008:
Local government strike
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis