LONDON bus drivers employed by French government-owned privateer RATP took their third day of strike action against £2,500 pay cuts yesterday, with another two days of action planned for Friday and Saturday next week.
There were two powerful picket lines at Hounslow bus garage in west London, where workers told News Line that they want the action to be stepped up to London-wide and for their union to fight for the renationalisation of the network.
Driver and Unite member Ester Rodney said: ‘I’ve been driving buses for 19 years and I’ve never been treated like this, losing over two grand a year, which I can’t afford. It’s not acceptable. These companies are getting away with too much. London Transport should be renationalised, we’ve been saying it for years, but nothing’s happened.’
Driver and Unite member Vic Adams said: ‘All the bus companies need to come out on strike. If all the bus drivers of all the companies don’t stick together then we’re going to the scrap heap I’m afraid. We’re doing longer hours for less money, spending more time at work and are really shattered when the end of the shift comes.’
Warning against the imposition of ‘remote sign on’, which the bus companies are planning to impose on drivers in the near future, Adams continued: ‘We are totally against it.
‘If you’ve got to take over your bus in Kingston for instance and then you finish your shift at Heathrow, at the end of your shift you’d have to travel all the way back to Kingston to pick up your car. And of course, they won’t be paying travel time.
‘Once remote sign on is brought in by one company then they’ll all do it and if we don’t nip it in the bud now we won’t stop it at all.
‘We need London-wide strike action now, renationalise London Transport, bring all the buses under one wing again.’
Driver and Unite member Daljit Banga said: ‘Personally, I think it should go back to how it was. The buses were nationalised and they should be renationalised. All the drivers have worked through the pandemic, which shows we are united together. That means we are all facing the same struggles and we must all strike together, especially against remote sign on.’
Meanwhile, horns tooted as they passed a lively picket line of striking bus workers at the RATP garage in Park Royal, west London.
Unite rep Gary Scripps told News Line: ‘We are as solid here as all the other RATP garages and we are making a big impact.
‘The company are proposing to give us a £1,000 “bonus” but we will be losing over £2,500 in other cuts.
‘In a spread during an 11-hour shift with a three-hour break in the middle we are only paid for two hours and fifteen minutes, but now they only want to pay us for two hours and that mounts up over the whole year.
‘Also drivers are paid a safety bonus if they don’t have any accidents during a whole year which can be £400 rising to £1,600 and the company want to get rid of that altogether.
‘We haven’t had a pay rise for two years and we are only being offered 0.5%, that’s no good to anyone.’
At the Shepherds Bush garage where nearly 300 drivers are on strike, Unite’s Futa Aminu said ‘Despite being frontline workers at risk every day French-owned RATP is offering an “increase” which will cut pay by £2,500 a year.
‘It’s about time bus companies were nationalised and we had a collective contract for all bus workers.
‘Private companies are only interested in profit.’