‘WE are rock solid!’ Unite leader Len McCluskey declared yesterday during the 24-hour London-wide bus strike that brought the capital to a standstill.
He was addressing a 200 strong mass picket of striking bus workers at Camberwell Bus Garage, one of the many mass pickets at bus garages across London.
McCluskey continued: ‘Here is a fact – when injustice exists the only people that can put that right are ordinary working people.
‘Rank and file people at the bottom of our organisation fighting for their rights and you have demonstrated that you are going to stand up for your rights and stand shoulder to shoulder.
‘London is the greatest capital city in the world. You are the blood that flows through the veins of the heart of this city.’
Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary of Unite told News Line: ‘Our members are out and London is coming to a standstill today because thirty years of privatisation of London bus routes has led to a race to the bottom of pay and conditions of our members.
‘The obscenity now is of new starters being employed at £8 an hour to do a job that warrants £14 an hour in anybody’s money delivering safe and secure public transport to eight million Londoners.
‘It is quite clear that Transport for London should be back in-house. This should be a public service, delivered by public workers, with public money.
‘There is one rate that passengers pay and therefore there is one rate that drivers should earn.’
Unite pickets were out from 3.45am at Metroline’s Holloway Bus Garage in north London.
Unite rep Anthony Koumourou told News Line: ‘There’s a good turnout, only a few crossed the picket line but we are the largest garage in London with about 650 drivers and 150 customer assistants.
‘Our members are all up for further action. We want one rate across London – you’re all driving the same buses on the same roads.
‘Workers should answer any strike ban with a general strike. I totally agree with renationalising the bus industry, even though Metroline is one of the best companies, privatisation doesn’t work.’
There were over a hundred bus workers at Peckham Bus Garage.
Unite rep Ahmed Mansour told News Line: ‘We are out today for better conditions, for existing drivers and new drivers. We want a decent pay rise and job security.
‘We work in a front line service, speaking to people everyday, working unsociable hours, responding to emergencies and this deserves proper pay and proper conditions.’
The Hackney picket began at 3am and the bus workers had sparked up a brazier. Unite branch chair Sadeeq Mulla told News Line: ‘We are out today because we deserve better! We want the company to stop this lower grade and higher grade business. We should all be on the same pay. We all do the same job, we all work the same routes.’
There were fifty pickets at Wood Green Bus Garage waving their Unite flags. Driver Bob Karimpour told News Line: ‘Basically across London there are about 30 different rates of pay for bus drivers doing the same job.
‘The highest rate of pay DR4 for the older drivers they are trying to get rid of. They are trying to give cheaper pay to younger workers and drive pay down. You have no family life, it is seven days a week, why is there such a big difference over pay like this?’
At Westbourne Park Bus Garage Unite rep Abdul said: ‘We are asking for equal pay for all the garages because at the moment it varies between £9 and £15 an hour, we should be on £31,000 across the board for all drivers.’