STRONG pickets gathered yesterday morning outside three of the four South London bus garages who voted for strike action as part of the 48-hour action over pay.
They are operated by the Arriva bus company, whose offer of a 3% pay rise for 2021 was soundly rejected by the drivers who are members of Unite.
The three garages which were on strike were Croydon, Thornton Heath and West Norwood.
The fourth garage, Brixton, had an injunction to stop the strike going ahead on the basis of a technicality.
Delilah Joseph, a driver at Norwood garage told News Line: ‘We’re not valued for what we do.
‘It hurts us that we have to do this to ourselves and the public just to get what we’re entitled to, but this is the only way to get them to listen.
‘For us there’s no vanity in it. It is to feed our families and pay the bills.’
At Croydon bus garage John, who didn’t want to give his second name for fear of victimisation, said: ‘We asked for 5%.
‘First they offered one and a half per cent which was rejected.
‘Then they offered 3% which was also rejected. Its not fair for the job we are doing. I’ve been driving for 15 years, and we kept everything moving during the pandemic.
‘Other companies gave their employees £500 pandemic money but we got nothing. They just don’t care.’
At Thornton Heath, the drivers were addressed by Peter Kavanagh, Unite regional organiser, who assured them that the union will stand by them but also told them that 3% was the highest offer made by any of the bus companies to date.
He said: ‘Workers have already rejected this 3% offer.’ He paid tribute to the bus drivers, 51 of whom died from Covid, who ‘carried on while the government was floundering like headless chickens.’
Chris Roberts, the Unite rep at Thornton Heath, told News Line: ‘The 3% offer was rejected by a large majority of 145 to 45 and was rejected by 480 in all the garages.
‘This increase was due in April 2021, but people still have to cope with the cost of living increases day to day.
‘People are very angry.
‘We should be paid at the level of the Tube workers. They get an increase based on RPI. They only pay us on the basis of CPI which doesn’t include housing, but you have to live somewhere.
‘95% of people on strike turned up on the picket line. We’ve proved we can mobilise the membership. Since privatisation they have been trying to divide us.’