THE BUS strike by 2,200 Unite members employed by the privateer RATP at eight London garages was solid yesterday, with strikers demanding that the action is expanded in order to defeat the company’s attacks on their pay and conditions.
The strike is against pay cuts of up to £2,500 per annum which the company is trying to impose on the drivers.
Speaking on the large picket at Shepherd’s Bush bus garage in West London, Unite rep Abdul Hanafi told News Line: ‘We are on strike for three days this week and two days next week.
‘The company is using the pandemic as an excuse to cut our money. The directors need to come to the table with a good deal, otherwise we are not going to stop and the strikes will continue.’
Driver and Unite member Ricardo said: ‘If the employers keep the workers happy they’ll get a good service, but instead, they are trying to force drivers out of work and pay them less money.
‘When I was in France bus drivers were treated with respect, but here in this country we are not. In France they would not let the employers get away with it and we must not let them get away with it here.’
Driver and Unite member Omar said: ‘We do eight hours including breaks and they want to change it into ten hours a day, which is ridiculous. When we have one hour breaks, they take forty minutes from our money. Now they want to deduct one hour from our pay. TfL are losing money and the company is trying to take it out of our wages.’
On the powerful picket at Epsom Bus Garage in south west London, driver and Unite member Paul Fleet told News Line: ‘The conditions of pay here have deteriorated and failed most of the drivers over the years.
‘Also, in this garage in particular, drivers really put themselves out over the first part of the Covid period. The cabins were not sealed up on any of the buses until six months after the Covid period started and a lot of drivers got ill.
‘Other companies paid a £500 Covid bonus straight into the accounts of their workers, but this company did nothing, we didn’t even get a penny, not a penny to say thank you for putting yourselves out. Even if it had been just £50 it would have been something, but they totally ignored us.
‘We need nationalisation. Privatisation is where the problem is, because these private companies are all just profit-driven, they don’t care about the drivers at all and until we get nationalisation it is going to continue that way.’
Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy said: ‘Our members are out against RAPT and their derisory offer and are fighting for fair pay.’
Asked if Unite will bring the rest of London on strike against the attacks of the bus privateers, she said: ‘Well the whole of London are not in dispute with RATP. Industrial action has to be in relation to an employer,’ she claimed.
Asked if Unite supports renationalisation of the buses, she replied: ‘My main focus is for our members fighting for equality of pay here and in other areas of London. In regard to planning and strategising for what we do in London in the future, for the changes that are coming to this industry, there are particular forums for that and when the time comes appropriate action will be taken.’