THERE was solid support across London for a 24 hour strike last Thursday 5th February as up to 20,000 bus workers across the capital’s 18 bus operators walked out for a second time to end pay inequality and secure one collective agreement for pay and conditions.
With picket lines in place outside London’s 70 bus garages, the bus workers’ union Unite accused Transport for London (TfL) of being “wildly optimistic” with its claims of the number of buses on the road.
Urging the buses operators to step out from behind the “coat tails” of TfL, Unite warned of more action if London’s bus companies continued with their refusal to talk collectively.
Unite claims a refusal by the operators to address pay inequality has led to pay gaps of over £3-an-hour for new starters opening up, with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company.
Commenting on Thursday’s disruption, Unite regional officer Wayne King said: “TfL is being wildly optimistic with its claims of the number of buses running today. Once again we’ve seen solid support by bus workers determined to end the pay chaos on London’s buses.
“Today’s disruption is regrettable, but the blame lies squarely with London’s 18 bus companies who have continued to refuse to talk collectively over the last two years.
“To suggest such talks would be illegal is misleading. Are they saying that collective arrangements covering the construction industry or the police are illegal?
“All we are asking for is a collective forum to discuss how we can end pay disparities over a sensible timeframe.
“The bus companies need to stop hiding behind the coat tails of TfL and start talking collectively about how we end pay inequality and achieve a fair deal for the men and women who keep London on the move seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
The bus drivers had support from other unions, including the civil service union PCS.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka sent a message of support to the 20,000 striking Unite bus workers.
There will be further strikes on 13th and 16th unless the bus operators enter into collective talks over ending unfair pay disparities.
Responding to statements by TfL, Unite warned the transport body was “failing” passengers with misleading comments that exposed the pretence that it was neutral in the dispute.
“Passengers should also be clear that this isn’t a political dispute, it’s an industrial one. TfL with its continuing meddling seem to want to take this away from being a straightforward industrial dispute between bus drivers and their employers and turn it into a political football," said Wayne King.
“TfL should either take a constructive role or keep out of it and let the operators speak for themselves.”