The Socialist 3 July 2019 |
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London Arriva bus drivers vote for strike action over bullying and workload
London bus, photo Graham Richardson (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Andy Beadle, former bus driver
London bus drivers have had enough! In a consultative ballot of Unite the Union members at Arriva, drivers voted overwhelmingly for industrial action.
The concern is "failure to adhere to policies and procedures and the erosion of terms and conditions without proper consultation." Basically management bullying.
Arriva operates about a fifth of London buses. Across 15 garages, drivers have voted 1,854 to 69 to back the strike.
Like other workers, many are in debt and feel obliged to work on their rest days. Drivers work five days and get two rest days each week from Saturday to Friday. Most shifts either start very early, finish very late or they are long 'middles'.
Especially in the long summer holiday period, garages have a shortage of workers and rely on overtime to cover the work. Occasionally, you see the supervisor behind the counter tearing their hair out trying to cajole a driver: "Can you do me a favour? Will you work a rest day for me?"
Drivers sometimes need a change of rest day from their rota for personal or family reasons. Most garages, most of the time, are not particularly helpful.
Some drivers requesting rest day swaps are being refused an exchange unless they agree to work a rest day. This profit-before-safety approach is just one of many bullying ways so widespread on London buses.
Ironically, Transport for London (TfL) is about to publish findings on safety concerns over the long hours culture in the industry. Without union strength, TfL could easily turn a blind eye to this or resolve it to workers' detriment in other ways.
Anti-union laws mean there are several hoops to jump through before the Arriva ballot translates into action. But this welcome news has got others asking, "why not in our garage, too?" An Arriva strike could be the spark for wider action.