Bus strike brings chaos to London
THOUSANDS of London bus drivers took strike action on Tuesday 13th January, bringing transport chaos throughout the capital as people were unable to get to work and people have been unable to get to work.
The drivers, members of the giant union Unite, are demanding a single pay and conditions agreement covering the whole of London.
London buses, privatised by a Tory government in the 1990s, are run by a number of different companies and each of them has different wages, terms and conditions.
Pay can differ by up to £3-an-hour, making over £100 difference in the weekly pay. Unite said with no collective pay deal there were 80 different pay rates for drivers doing the same job.
One driver explained his current pay was not enough to allow him to continue living in London.
He said: "My rate of pay is £9.30 an hour. I just want something that's a bit better.
"It depends on the shifts I get per week whether I can take home £300 and rent in north London is like £1,000 a month."
Wayne King, London regional officer for Unite, said: "Strike action is the last resort. We've been forced into this position by the operators' refusal to even meet with us.
"Passengers sitting side by side on the same route expect to pay the same fare, so why shouldn't drivers expect to be paid the same rate?
"The bus operators need to stop pleading poverty in defending pay inequality and collectively start negotiating about a fairer deal for London's bus workers."
But London Mayor Boris Johnson, who does not have the same power over the bus network as the London Underground, defended the differential pay rates.
A spokesperson for Metroline, one of the bus companies involved, said: "Unite is seeking to move to a common rate of pay across all bus companies in London and we have challenged this on the grounds that it would be illegal for us to agree to their demand."
Another driver told the on-line campaign Counterfire: “Bus routes come up for tender every couple of years. When Livingston was Mayor of London he encouraged contracts to be based on quality not just on the cheapest bidder. With Boris the emphasis is based upon the lowest bidder.
“This also affects people’s pensions. Over 20 years I could work for five different companies and end up with five different pensions, all not adding up to very much.
“No one's taking these sorts of things into consideration, with companies closing down final salary pensions, taking full advantage of the Government's scheme.
“They shut down the Money-Purchase Pension and went to the new Government compulsory pensions standard which was lower than the pension that they had before. The Government didn't say you had to make the pension lower but the companies took advantage of it. They want to increase their profit margins.
“Every time the bosses sit down in a room and we say we need a better deal they tell us TFL's 'contract price adjustments' will only give them a tiny return. They tell us they are not making enough of a profit to raise our pay. We’ve got to a stage where we’re fed up.
“This is the most successful era of London busses ever in terms of passenger numbers, the amount of journeys and so forth and now we want to be rewarded for our labour.
“What's the solution to tacking pay disparity? We believe that the only way we are going to get a better deal and a fairer deal is to have London-wide standards that, regardless of what company you work for, you know what you are going to get for your pension and wage.
“Here’s the problem: every time the governor wants to get an increase in his profit he comes after my wage. My wage seems to be the biggest variable. Their petrol costs what it costs, their busses cost what they cost but it seems like they can always do something with my wage….
“If they’re going to bid on contracts they should bid on their own money, not on my wages.”
Charlton Athletic LGBT fans lured into attack
HOMOPHOBIC thugs attacked gay football supporters after duping them into thinking they were meeting a similar group of fans from a rival team.
Members of Charlton Rainbows – a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group of Charlton Athletic followers – believed they had been invited to join up with LGBT supporters from Brighton and Hove Albion.
But some of the group were ambushed and assaulted when they arrived at the meeting point before the Championship clubs played each other on Saturday.
No one was seriously injured and there was no suggestion the attackers were associated with Brighton or Charlton football clubs.
Charlton Rainbows tweeted: “Before yesterday’s match, we were told to meet a group equivalent to ours.
“Unfortunately, this was a hoax and some members were attacked. An investigation’s ongoing with CCTV and statements being taken.”
The statement added: “We would like to say that the fans involved were neither BHAFC nor CAFC.
“Our members shaken, but OK. We can’t give more info as this is a criminal matter, but the thugs will be caught.
"We would also like to thank the public who helped and the emergency services for their quick response and actions.”