Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/723/14727
Support the London bus strike
A London bus worker
The regional secretary of Unite the union, Peter Kavanagh, has told reps from London bus garages that, after a 94% vote for action, an official 24-hour strike would start across the capital from 3am on Friday 22 June.
This first London-wide strike for a generation was called after the capital's private bus companies refused to pay a bonus for bus workers who will be coping with an extra 900,000 passengers during the Olympics and Paralympics. Transport for London (TfL), who supposedly control the whole system, are refusing to intervene. If necessary a second strike could be called for the Olympic Games' opening day, 27 July.
Almost all the bus workers I spoke to wanted to see this action through. My garage had Unite posters on the walls informing members of the strike and my rep told me that ten drivers had joined the union on that day alone. As we spoke, a driver came up and asked what could he do about the strike, but wasn't in Unite. We said "Join!" and that was recruit number eleven.
A driver from Catford said only a few drivers would come into work and the mood was supportive. But drivers weren't as worried about the £500 bonus as to get back for the way management was treating them. They never even offered a bonus which almost everyone else in passenger transport is getting. The driver also thought a strike now would help when the main pay negotiations come round.
Another rep said the union would call for another strike after the Olympics as the bosses' response to the union's annual pay claim was a pay freeze! One driver who left Unite because it wasn't doing anything for workers at her garage definitely wouldn't cross a picket line.
A roadside controller said he'd be expected to drive a bus on strike day along with other management. "But the first abuse I get, I'll be chucking all my passengers off and calling in to say I'm bringing my bus back to the depot on health and safety grounds."
When East London buses had a strike a couple of years ago, management had to call in the few buses on the road precisely because they were getting dangerously overcrowded and drivers/scabs/managers were getting threats.
The battle is now on. Leon Daniels, a TfL boss, accused bus workers of being 'reprehensible' for strking. Daniels earns £234,906 a year and is in line for a bonus of £80,000 tied to the Olympics!
The last major all-London strike was in 1982, in solidarity with nurses. If we win this struggle after years of inactivity, it will loosen management's grip and give new confidence not just to bus workers but to all workers.
Olympic bonus awards have already been agreed for the following workers:
- Heathrow Express: £700
- Network Rail: £500
- Docklands Light Railway: £900
- Virgin Rail: £500
- London Overground: £600
- London Underground: at least £850
- BAA staff: up to £1,200
In The Socialist 20 June 2012:
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