Save London buses protest Save London buses protest. Photo: Unjum Mirza

Bus drivers, Unite members and activists rallied against proposed cuts to London buses and bus routes, reports Unjum Mirza

While Liz Truss and Boris Johnson flew separately by private jet – emitting an estimated 196kg of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere – to meet her Majesty in an increasingly familiar union of freeloaders, parasites and leeches in British politics to inflict the country with the latest Prime Minister, Unite bus workers and supporters protested outside the DfT against the planned cuts to public bus routes across London – a service essential to curtailing carbon emissions.

Unite the union’s Save Our Buses campaign highlights what Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney called a “catalogue of shame” at a rally outside Parliament as some 250 buses and 16 routes could be axed, as Transport for London (TfL) plans cuts in response to a funding crisis borne out of the previous Tory administration under Boris Johnson’s reign as London Mayor and the pandemic. The bus routes under threat include the 4, 11, 12, 14, 16, 24, 31, 45, 72, 74, 78, 242, 349, 521, C3 and D7.

Photo: Unjum Mirza

Last week the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan and the TfL Board signed up to a Tory London-wide transport austerity package drawn up by the now sacked Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that will impact on the jobs, pay, conditions and pensions of workers across the capital’s transport network as well as the London working class more generally in the midst of a deepening cost of living crisis.

Paula Peters from DPAC spoke of the impact of the cuts on the poorest and most vulnerable while Mark Alleyne, a London bus driver and rep said “we need more buses not less. These cuts will cost jobs. We need to pay our bills too”. Unite regional officer John Murphy added,

“these cuts will also hit our cleaners, our NHS staff, shop workers and those on the minimum wage – not the London minimum wage – the minimum wage. Why do we have a service for the public cut to the bone so the privateers can profit from it? London needs a properly funded public bus service and it’s about time the government and the Mayor woke up to it.”

Jeremy Corbyn MP joined the rally and explained:

“One of the mistakes made was the bus companies were not taken into public ownership and the whole thing run by Transport for London… I think that is a demand that we should be making. And just because we are defending something at the moment does not mean that we should not be making demands. We defend the National Health Service and at the same time we demand a national care service. We defend those who work in the public services and demand public ownership of mail, rail, water and energy.”

Photo: Unjum Mirza

Unite’s Onay Kasab, responsible for organising the buses nationally said,

“How is it, that we can have a system that allows the bus operators to make massive profits – and they are making massive profits -and yet on the other hand we have to have routes cut? That is the wrong kind of system. We need change and Unite is going to help bring about that change. With a few notable exceptions, we will take the lead  in bringing that change because the politicians have not done that. We will fight like our members are fighting over pay. Our members at Arriva London North who have voted for industrial action just last week. Our members at London United who have been taking strike action. Our members at Arriva in Herts, in Beds, in Kent and in Essex who’ve been taking strike action. They are showing the lead. Our members at Abellio, Go-Ahead, Stagecoach, Metroline are all now preparing for action. They are showing a lead”.

The recent co-ordinated action between RMT members on London Underground and Unite bus workers at London United (RATP) in West London on 19 August offered a glimpse of the power we hold to win both for workers in transport and our communities in defending our services for the public.

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Unjum Mirza

Unjum Mirza is a driver on the London Underground. He is on the Editorial Board of Tunnel Vision, the rank and file bulletin, and is an Aslef union branch chair.