East London bus strike: City-wide strikes to come

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Roderick C and James B report from today’s bus strike at Tower Transit in East London.

Today’s strike at Tower Transit bus company is a precursor to the likely London-wide action over pay disparities between the 17 separate companies that make up London’s bus service. It highlights the inequality and inefficiency of the service, whereby Transport for London (TfL) offers bus routes out to tender and leaves negotiations on pay and conditions to the companies that win the contracts. Starting rates can vary by up to £2 per hour between companies.

Around 40 drivers picketed the Lea Interchange depot in Leyton, East London. There were noisy scenes as a company executive sought to negotiate a deal on the spot and over the heads of the union representatives present. The workers quite rightly felt affronted by this especially as talks at the conciliation service ACAS, often used as a last resort when seeking a settlement, had broken down.

Unite union convenor George explained that today’s action was over an unresolved pay review for 2014-15. Staff rejected an earlier offer in part because it failed to contain death-in-service benefit. This benefit is an important part of their terms and conditions, providing as it does some degree of financial security to the drivers’ families.

Tower Transit is a private company and the subsidiary of Australian bus and ferry operator Transit Systems. It doesn’t recognise the union in Australia.

London’s bus workers provide a vital service to the capital and should be treated with respect by their employers. They deserve to earn a wage which allows them to live in the city where they work. We should support them in their struggles to achieve this on a company basis and in seeking a collective negotiating forum that harmonises the terms and conditions of the capital’s bus drivers.

First published at rs21.org.uk