Bus drivers working for London United, owned by the French
firm RATP, went out on a 48 hour strike on March 31st through to end of April
1st after talks broke down over pay and conditions. RATP are attempting to use
the pandemic to attack workers’ pay and conditions, despite continuing to make
Further strikes are planned for April 7th and
14th. London United is attempting to downgrade drivers, which means a loss of
as much as £2,000 a year for some drivers. They would no longer get paid during
breaks or time spent waiting for their bus to arrive after clocking in. Five
bus depots came out, Fulwell, Hounslow, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush and
Tolworth. In the meantime, drivers at the Stamford Brook and Hounslow Heath
garages have also voted to come out on strike. This means that all seven depots
will be out on strike on the 14th.
Meanwhile, at other London bus companies, London
Sovereign and Quality Line, also owned by RATP, the Unite union demobilised the
struggle. Many workers, up to a third of the workforce, voted against accepting
a pay increase of 1.25 per cent and a one-off payment of £500, only 0.5%
greater than what was originally offered. They had been involved in a series of
rolling strikes since February. But the planned strikes were suspended by Unite
Quality Line drivers are the lowest paid in
London. The paltry pay offer means an increase of 14p extra an hour. The
workers there are paid £2.50 less than at RATP’s other firms.
The New Starter contracts proposed by RATP will
still go ahead. This means new drivers will get lower pay and conditions than
established drivers. Neither will RATP back down on zero hour contracts for
drivers on lines lost to competing bus companies, who were then transferred to
other bus routes.
Bus workers are in crying need of developing
rank and file committees to organise action against union sell-outs.