by South East London Socialist Party
Bus drivers in South and West London took the first of ten days of strike action on 22 November after Abellio’s failure to offer workers a pay increase. Hundreds of bus drivers have been picketing outside Walworth, Battersea, Twickenham, Beddington, Hayes and Southall bus depots.
Metroline drivers in North and West London, also in Unite, will strike too, starting on 1 December. With RPI inflation at 14.2%, drivers have rejected the company’s latest 10% pay offer.
A bus driver we spoke to on the Walworth picket line said he had to work 60 hours a week just to get by. He wasn’t the only one who had to work overtime.
The cost-of-living crisis has hit all sections of the working class. Another driver spoke about how the prices of all goods have gone up sharply this year, but that in previous years drivers pay has been eroded bit by bit.
Trade union action is vital to secure an inflation-proof pay rise. In a recent press statement, Unite announced that the number of bus strikes has increased 827%, many winning important victories. These victories have certainly boosted the confidence of drivers, and this was reflected in the determined mood on the picket lines.
Further strike dates at Abellio will take place on 1,2,3,9,10,16 and 17 December. Metroline drivers will strike on 1,2,3,8,9,15 and 16 December. Further coordination of London bus drivers strikes could emerge in the new year if the bosses of the different companies don’t back down. Striking together would be a step in the direction of winning a London-wide agreement for drivers.
Socialist Party members also spoke to pickets at Battersea. One of the many drivers frustrated with London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan said he expects Khan to set a London-wide minimum wage for all bus drivers before giving out contracts to private bus companies. We would add that, if bus companies are unwilling to sign up, then Khan should remove their contracts with no compensation.
Rather than fighting the Tories and standing up for bus drivers, Khan has been complicit in attacks on pay, terms and conditions. These private bus companies have been driving down the real wages of drivers while at the same time raking in huge profits.
These services should be immediately brought back in-house, under the democratic control of workers and service users, as part of a fully funded transport system.
- Abellio strike fund – Account Details: Unity Trust Bank, Acc No: 20210456, Sort Code: 608301, Branch Name: TGWU1/768, Hayes Branch LE/768. Contact [email protected]