‘OUR STRUGGLE is getting stronger, not weaker. There is a deep determination amongst the membership. The more mischief from management, the more they try to demonise us and the union, the stronger it makes us,’ striking bus driver and Unite member Tom Meldon said on the picket line at Fulwell Garage in Twickenham yesterday.
Drivers employed by the French government-owned bus privateer RATP at five London garages were taking their ninth day of strike action against £2,500 pay cuts yesterday and are jubilant that colleagues from two more garages will be joining them on their tenth day of strike action next Thursday.
‘It will be very welcome that Hounslow Heath and Stamford Brook garages are joining us on strike next Thursday, especially because most of the management negotiating team are based at Stamford Brook,’ continued Meldon.
He added: ‘The Manchester struggle, where the busworkers have been on indefinite strike for five weeks, is very important, it’s pivotal. What happens to them sets a precedent for the whole country. We support them wholeheartedly and admire their grit and determination.’
Striking driver and Unite member Alex Nobrega said: ‘Give us what we need. They promised an increase of 2.5% and now they’ve taken that back and want to make it 0.5%, and impose new contracts cutting pay by £2,500. These private companies want to take from the ones who keep the company going and put money into the pockets of the shareholders. We want national strike action.’
Striking driver and Unite member Francisco Martins said: ‘It should be one job and one pay deal, not 20 different pay rates. I’ve been on this job for 20 years, but if I move I’ll start on the lower rate.
‘The director comes up on Youtube and says the company made a loss for the past three years, but her pay increased by 56%, from £196,000 to £363,000.
‘All the companies should join together. We want a national strike to get it sorted and renationalise the bus network.’
At Hounslow Bus Garage, striking driver and Unite member Clive Collacott said: ‘Why should we give up everything that we’ve worked for? I’ve been here 32 years and it’s got worse and worse and it’ll get worse still until the buses are renationalised.
‘When I started it was London Transport and it was fair. We used to do a round robin rota. We used to learn and do every route in the garage.
‘Now, if your route goes elsewhere, unless you go with the route you have to sign a new contract and take a massive pay cut. It’s gone downhill ever since it was privatised. Renationalise now and call national action to achieve it.’
At Shepherd’s Bush garage strikers were confident of winning their struggle against the imposed new contracts.
Unite rep Abdul Hanafi said: ‘There’s no way we will accept the contract. Things will change next week when two other garages, Stamford Brook and Hownslow Heath will be joining the strike.’
Another driver, Steve, told News Line: ‘I have worked here since 1988 when it was run by London Transport. Buses should be run as a service, and re-nationalised.
‘This company is spending money on reconstruction work in all their garages.
‘We are also getting a new device, a Tranzaura (Samsung Galaxy phone) – but they don’t call it a phone because it has no SIM card.
‘It’s what I see as remote sign on by the back door because whereas before we used a log to do our checks on the bus, we now use an app on this device.
‘It knows our location so instead of logging on at the garage we could be made to log on with this device. The pay rise we have been offered to cover what we will lose (£2,500 a year) is only 7p an hour, this is an insult when the boss here has had a salary increase of £167,000 in the last three years.’