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Fulwell Garage strike

Fulwell Garage strike. Photo: Yonas Makoni

Over 2,000 bus drivers began strike action on Monday in response to a new contract that will see a cut in pay and conditions, reports Yonas Makoni

London bus drivers are striking Monday 22-24 in a dispute encompassing more than 2,000 drivers. French transport company RATP’s new proposed contracts could see drivers lose £2,500 in wages. The company is also attacking conditions, forcing drivers to work longer hours, and threatening to impose new zero-hour contracts.

London United is a subsidiary company of RATP based in south west London. Workers from two other RATP subsidiaries, London Sovereign and Quality Line, are also striking over pay, with workers at the Quality Line earning £2.50 less than other London bus drivers. In response to the workers’ action, RATP has offered London Sovereign and Quality Line workers insulting 0.75% and 0.5% pay rises respectively.

At Fulwell Garage in Twickenham, picketing London United workers were outraged at the proposed changes. In what is becoming a familiar story across industries, one striker argued that the Covid pandemic was being used as a smokescreen to impose these aggressive changes.

“Bus companies aren’t losing that much money. They’ve run buses throughout the pandemic and they’re being paid upfront”. Bus companies, he argued, have gotten away with sticking to their usual schedule during the pandemic, while being paid by TfL per mile that each bus runs rather than per passenger.

The workers see these attacks as being doubly insulting, given the risks that bus drivers have taken to continue working as normal throughout the pandemic. 42 London bus workers have died from the virus and one driver informed me that their union rep was unable to be at the picket line as they were ill with Covid.

Separate disputes are taking place with bus companies Metroline in north west London and Go North West in Manchester, where workers are being fired and rehired on new contracts with longer working hours and reduced sick pay. Metroline workers will ballot for strike action over the introduction of remote sign-on, which will mean workers having to sign0on on the bus route rather than in the depot, reducing safety and employee access to canteen and toilet facilities.

While the bus companies have so far refused to negotiate with the unions, the workers at Fulwell Garage were ready for prolonged action to force them to listen. They say they have already planned for further strike dates on the weekend of 5 March. Their efforts need our full support.

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