BUS workers across London are on strike today over an escalating battle over pay.
The 24-hour strike is over the refusal of London’s 18 bus operators to agree a single agreement to ensure that all London bus workers are paid the same.
The picket lines started at each garage at the time of the first bus of the day, and at Camberwell bus garage, South East London, that was 3.20am.
Danny Johnson, Unite Shop Steward at Abellio at Camberwell, told News Line: ‘We believe that we all do the same job and we all deserve to have the same pay across the board and the same terms and conditions.
‘One company has a starting pay of £8 an hour, some companies start at £10 an hour, some at £12 and some at £15.
‘That means for the lowest paid, the wage is practically half what other companies pay. We know that it is not going to be a one-day strike, its going to be an ongoing dispute.
‘We are looking to go the whole hog. The underlining problem is that it is all about profit, the way that these bus companies win contracts is to lower wages so that they can bid for a route.
‘If the whole bus service went back into the hands of the government or Transport for London, everyone would be under one contract and then it would be so much easier and everyone would be more comfortable in their job.
‘Re-nationalisation would be brilliant. At the moment it’s all about the money, zero hours contracts which are worked out to squeeze as much money out of the work force as possible to make bigger profits.’
Meanwhile a survey published yesterday showed that two thirds of London bus passengers think the capital’s bus drivers should all be paid the same.
The survey of 1,645 passengers by Mass1 for Unite, gives the union public backing to the bus workers’ campaign to end unfair pay disparities and secure one agreement for pay and conditions across London’s 18 bus operators.
It comes as an analysis of the latest accounts for the capital’s bus operators shows the companies making combined profits of £171.7 million, with directors’ pay totalling at least £7.24 million a year.
l Bus services are facing a severe crisis as council cuts have meant that 2,000 routes are being reduced or withdrawn entirely, isolating rural communities Better Transport said yesterday.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said that half the councils in England and Wales have cut funding for buses in 2014/15, amounting to more than £9m when compared with 2013/14.
The CBT said local authority funding for bus services had been slashed by 15% since 2010. Its report said that rural areas have been worst hit by cuts, seeing average budget reductions of 19% this year. It also says that in 2014/15 alone, nearly 500 bus services were cut, altered or withdrawn.
CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said the government needed to ‘wake up to the crisis facing buses’.
Abrams added: ‘Across the country, bus services are being lost at an alarming rate. Year-on-year cuts to budgets mean entire networks have now disappeared, leaving many communities with little public transport and in some cases none at all.’
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: ‘This shocking new report lifts the lid on the trail of misery left strewn across the country as multimillion-pound cuts to bus services condemn hundreds of thousands of people to lives of isolation and imprisonment in their own homes.
‘The poisonous cocktail of cuts and privatisation reinforces our call for bus services to be taken back into public ownership with the resources required to run as a comprehensive public service.’