BUS WORKERS TAKE STRIKE ACTION – stand to lose £2,500 a year

Unite bus drivers on the picket line at Shepherd’s Bush garage during their last strike – they are out again today

DRIVERS employed by the RATP bus privateer begin strike action today against £2,500 pay cuts, with 2,200 workers striking at Edgware, Epsom, Fulwell, Harrow, Hounslow, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush and Tolworth garages.

Some of the garages are continuing their strike action for three days until Wednesday.

Unite regional officer for RATP Michelle Braveboy said: ‘RATP’s attacks on these key workers’ terms and conditions will, if implemented, see drivers lose up to £2,500-a-year, when the cost of living in the capital is soaring.

‘These are not temporary changes, but permanent ones that will see members suffer a substantial financial loss. The dispute regarding the zero contract hours has also not been resolved.

‘Our members have no option other than to fight back against these attacks, while recognising the disruption caused.

Drivers spoke to News Line on the eve of the strike.

Hounslow bus garage driver and Unite member Max Mensah said: ‘We have to strike. They are taking all the bonuses – weekly attendance bonus, the spreadovers. How are we supposed to survive?

‘If they succeed in taking this then they’ll come back for more. We deserve more money not less. Look how many bus drivers died in the pandemic first wave.’

Hounslow driver Tomas Slaven said: ‘We worked throughout the pandemic in unsafe conditions to start with.

As a reward we get a pay cut, not even hidden behind changes in conditions like they normally do, but a straight pay cut.

‘They offered us 0.5% pay rise, but at the same time they told us they were going to get rid of the weekly attendance bonus and safety bonus. That amounts to roughly £13 a week – a straight pay cut.

Slaven also warned that the private bus companies are also planning to impose ‘remote signing on’, under which drivers will be forced to start and finish their shifts not at their garage, but at a remote bus stop of the company’s choosing.

‘Remote signing on is a horrible idea. We are not having to do it yet, but if one company starts doing it they will undercut the other companies and they will all be forced to do it as well because they will be saving a lot of money.

‘We need London-wide strike action and the renationalisation of London Transport.’

David Cox, Unite Rep Hounslow Heath garage said: ‘We’ve worked it out that under these attacks by RATP someone who does a 37-and-a-half-hour week plus overtime and rest days could lose somewhere around £2,500 a year.

‘What we need is for all drivers from all the companies to fight together.

‘When they broke up London Transport, it was always the premise to divide and rule, selling us down the river.

‘Renationalise London Transport and bring all bus drivers back under one roof, all on the same pay and conditions – unity is strength.’