by Unite member in London
Unite the Union members working as bus drivers at Abellio in London have won a major victory following strike action that began last November. This follows a big rise in the number of disputes involving Unite members in the passenger transport sector. In 2019, the figure was eleven. In 2022, the figure had risen to 102.
The win at Abellio is significant. It includes a headline increase of 18% on the basic hourly rate. But that’s not all. All additional payments — overtime, weekend working, rest-day working — have also seen increases. Negotiations will continue to secure an improved scheduling agreement, with early concessions already won. New starters will also see an increased rate.
The employer had sought to divide workers by proposing a lower increase for ‘TUPE’ staff (workers who transferred from a previous employer and whose conditions at point of transfer are protected). Unfortunately it is common for staff on TUPE conditions to be denied pay increases — a tactic to try to persuade them to transfer onto what may be inferior conditions at the new employer. But in this dispute, the union demanded and won the same cost-of-living increase for both sets of workers.
Crucially, the strike action fought off the bosses’ attack on the trade union that took place when one of the reps on the negotiating committee was dismissed. The correct approach is to say that there will be no resolution until the reinstatement of the sacked worker. This is what was demanded — and this is what was won.
The union began a series of consultations with members to discuss the detail from the negotiations, and crucially many had indicated that a combination of the concessions already won, along with financial hardship, could lead to a drift back to work on strike dates. It became clear that only significant escalation would move the employer further, and this is what was put to members. The members made the decision to accept what was already a very significant win.
The campaign will continue. Negotiations will now take place on issues not immediately resolved, while building for future pay battles to come, which workers will face strengthened as a result of this win.