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busWorker October 2008



Unite across London

to win decent pay
by Paul Brandon Unite Union rep
Holloway garage (personal capacity)

uring the last year the
fight back on the buses in
London has entered a new
and critical stage. After 25 years
of working under deregulation
and privatisation in the bus
industry London bus drivers are
saying loud and clear—enough
is enough.
Organised, determined and with
the full support of our union Unite, an
important struggle for justice is now
The rate and differences in pay and
conditions for doing the same job is
no longer acceptable. The long hours
culture and the levels of stress are no
longer acceptable.
The tendering system is no longer
acceptable. And doing nothing and
keeping silent is no longer acceptable.
Our successful march in July sent
the first clear message to City Hall. The
chant of “Strike, Strike, Strike” outside
Mayor Boris Johnson’s office was the
loudest of the day. On the picket line at Crawley
These were not merely words.
Bus drivers at First have since been form of subsidies to the tune of around
on strike for three days and linked £1 billion? This is only approximately
up on the 12 September with drivers
at Metrobus to bring large areas of
20 percent less than the publicly
owned, subsidised, Paris transportation
A message to Boris Johnson
London to a standstill. system.
Wouldn’t London receive better by John Murphy, passenger trade
appalling. We are tired of We’re told that the present
being undervalued system is driven by the need
Turmoil value for money by having an group, Unite the union (PC)
Rates of pay vary by £10k “to reduce cost to the tax
This is merely the beginning of the integrated, progressive and modern between the better and worst payer”. If this was a serious
busworkers’ campaign. Solidarity and publicly owned transport service like Since August the
paying companies. This is commitment, wouldn’t it
other great cities in the world? London busworkers’
support across London will be the key campaign has picked unacceptable to people doing be more effective for TfL
ingredient to maintain momentum. The current privatised tendering up momentum. Starting the same job. This vast gap, to operate all the routes
Events around the world in the system has created a process by which at First East and a consequence of competitive themselves?
financial markets demonstrate free the companies try to out do each other West, this grew into tendering, also leads to job Instead of the profit going
market capitalism is seriously flawed. by offering bids that win bus routes but two companies when insecurity. to shareholders so they can
As bus workers know only too well, at a cost that doesn’t reflect the worth Metrobus joined them in Lower paying companies buy a sports car or fur coat to
the privatisation experiment in our and value of the workforce. dispute. win the routes from the better wear in the summer, it could
industry has created an unfair system The losers are both the workers Then came the payers. Paying the drivers be put back into London and
with passengers and bus workers on and passengers, as public funds go announcement that on 10 less allows them to place its people. This is the sort of
the receiving end. to company profits at the expense of October these two would a slightly cheaper bid than issue which London Mayor
Governments in the UK and US wages or investment in the system. be joined by drivers from other companies. Low pay is Boris Johnson cannot be
have found themselves embracing Our campaign says the system Metroline, Arriva would the gateway to huge—and allowed to ignore.
nationalisation to save the banks and needs reform with standardised pay follow for the next strike, and growing— profits. “Boris Johnson sort our
When companies win work wages - Or we’ll be on strike
the system and quite unexpectedly and conditions and wages taken out of other companies were in the
from one another the driver for ages”.This was the chant
the idea of public ownership is now a the tendering process, possibly in the pipeline.
again pays the price. A driver of close to 100 striking bus
mainstream political idea again. form of central pay bargaining with What started as one in ten
buses off the road will become living near their garage may drivers at Metrobus, Croydon,
So is a publicly owned transport Transport for London. find themselves driving to because Johnson has the
nine in ten—a complete
system an alternative for the buses We should continue to put this case the other side of London, if power to introduce a minimum
stoppage in parts of London.
in London? Other great cities in the but we also need to tackle the bigger Why are London bus transferred with the route to standard clause which would
world have such a system. From New questions. workers up in arms? Simple— its new garage, under TUPE deliver a wage we can live on.
York to Paris, Moscow to Cairo and With the role of wages taken out these workers are London’s regulations. The members of UNITE the
Beijing to Delhi these cities run and of the system, what purpose does the life blood and without them the A single scale of union want the mayor to act.
operate a publicly owned transport privatised, tendering system have any city doesn’t work, the traffic busworkers’ wages across We are saying, Boris
system. more? To continue using public funds doesn’t move and business London would force our improve our wages not the
How many people know the for private profit? Will the public stand doesn’t make money. Yet employers to compete on fat cats’ profits or you will see
privately run buses in London is for such a system? Should we stand for our pay and conditions are quality, not on how cheaply the full strength of London’s
already funded by the public in the such a system? they can pay us. busworkers.

‘LONDON HAS THE WORLD’S FINEST BUS DRIVERS’ Boris Johnson, London Mayor, June 2008

busworkerfront copy.indd 1 7/10/08 12:10:58

busWorker October 2008

striking back f

On the picket line at Greenford

Solidarity with strikers

I’m a bus driver at Countryliner, collected £11. The debates
Burgess Hill. I'm 60 years of started by the collection were
age and I’ve been driving for 6 really useful. “They get paid more
years. I earn £8.15 per hour and than us”...“Not today they don’t” I
work 10 to 12 hour shifts. Drivers said...“We get paid shit, they get
here often do a 5 and a half hour paid shit plus one”.
continuous stretch. Our place is I visited the Metrobus All together in Orpington

we're fight
not fully unionised yet although picket line. I was well received.
there are Unite members in the Upon my cycling departure
garage. the rep made an impromptu,
I worked at Metrobus Crawley congratulatory statement
for 3 and a half years so when about the small collection I had
they were going out last time I brought. 50 pickets applauded
thought I’d do something about it. my embarrassed exit. I felt like
I circulated a home Steven Gerrard at the end of a
made collection sheet and a positive Liverpool result.
combination of a few drivers, a We're all in this together!
mechanic and two passengers Colin Frost

How we kept the battle

going at Sovereign BUSWORKER IS YOUR
Drivers at Sovereign garages at take the poster down.


Edgware and Harrow in West The offer was not really giving
London have gone through parity—pay and conditions are
a revolution during the pay better at London United. But
campaign! people there are very poorly paid
Sovereign is often quoted, and we should all be campaigning
quite rightly, as the worst bus for more.
company in the capital with basic The offer was rejected by eight Welcome to this first issue of democracy in the union, fighting
pay at around £400 a week— votes, very close but a remarkable
£20,000 a year. result considering the union was
Busworker! It comes out of racism and the BNP, and offering
We are the perfect example of calling for acceptance. the tremendous campaign in solidarity to other workers fighting
why there needs to be a fightback, Since then we have demanded
and why we need to win at least that the company comes up London, and the feeling among back.
£30,000 a year and the same with a better offer, which it has a group of activists that we need Busworker is certainly not in
good conditions across London. failed to do. So we called for a
Every year we have had attacks. consultative strike ballot, which to spread information, ideas opposition to the official union,
Yet there has been no fight – the the union gave us. This has shown and inspiration as widely as but it does offer another place
changes have all been accepted over 95 percent for a strike!
by the union. Now we are in the process possible. for activists to speak to each
I n August the local Unite of a formal strike ballot and we If you are part of the other. We will support every
officials recommended that we hope that Sovereign will be on
accept a very bad deal. It was only strike alongside others as soon fightback, Busworker is your positive move by the union, but
4 percent on top of our miserable as possible. paper. We want it to be a place also offer our own ideas on the
wages - the same figure that is In my opinion this example has
quite rightly being thrown out shown that some union officials for reports, discussion, debate— way forward.
across London. are not in tune with the members, and if necessary disagreement! We hope you enjoy this issue
We were not prepared to and that ordinary members need
accept this. We organised to let to organise themselves to push We are all agreed on making and will send in your reports,
other drivers know that this was
a bad deal. The new drivers were
forward the campaign.
At both garages new members
the campaign as effective as ideas and photos to:
key to this. have joined Unite because of the possible, defending and extending BUSWORKER@GMAIL.COM
The union put up a poster campaign. The RMT members in
saying that the deal would give the garages decided to take up
us parity with drivers at London dual membership of Unite and


United, which is owned by the RMT to make sure they can fully
same multinational, Transdev. participate in Unite votes.
Drivers demanded that the union Abdul Omer, driver
busWorker October 2008

for decent pay knowledge is power

The money's there to
pay us much more!
For along time there has been So the money's there for our
a sense of frustration in the wage rises but the profit at all
garages. Drivers were expected costs culture means they have no
to put up and shut up with the respect for drivers. That's why we
conditions we were supposed to are being offered 4 percent tops.
work under. We are making the profit for
Being a bus driver in London these companies, now we are
is not an easy job. We work long demanding a fairer share.
unsociable hours. Overtime isn't Year after year we've put up
a matter of choice when you are with piecemeal wage rises, which
struggling to make ends meet on are eaten up by soaring prices.
a weekly basis. But it's about more than pay.
Although drivers are struggling Sickness is a big issue. We're
on poverty wages , we are all expected to come into work, even
aware that the companies we though we are too ill.
work for are raking in the profits. Disciplinary action is often the
All the big bus operators are outcome for drivers who may be
making big money. You only have ill for long periods of time. All this
to go on the internet to find the puts more stress on the drivers
facts. who feel that they are forced
Arriva made £46 million to work even though they are
profit on it's bus operations in the unwell.
UK in the first six months of this Why should we work if we're
year. First made £122 million for sick? This is the 21st century, not
2007/8-up 21 percent, Metrobus' Victorian England. We are getting
owners Go-Ahead made £131 sick because of the long hours
million profits in 2007/8-up 19 we work but the only response is
percent. disciplinaries and even losing our
East London buses are owned jobs.
by the Australian bank Macquarie We're taking the first united
who made £992 million profits in action since privatisation. We
2007/8! need action across London to
We work for Metroline. They get better wages and the respect
are owned by ComfortDelgro, we deserve. We need to link up
picture a huge multinational based
in Singapore. Only last week
across the garages and across
the companies to make sure that
ComfortDelgro bought Radio this campaign is a success.
Meter Cabs in Liverpool for Amanda and Chris
£800,000. Cricklewood garage

ting back!
Westbourne Park erupts!

Where now for
the campaign?
11am, central London
For the bus companies, the chickens are coming home to roost.....
For details contact
busWorkeR October 2008


l£30k now or 5% increase,
whichever is more
l38 hour week
l7 hours 36 minutes
maximum on duty per day