London bus drivers go on strike

13 January 2015 Bus drivers across London will walk out in a 24 hour strike today (13 January).

16 Jan 2015| News

13 January 2015

Bus drivers across London will walk out in a 24 hour strike today (13 January).

Unite, who represent over 27,000 bus drivers across 18 bus companies in Greater London, have called the action against pay inconsistency for London bus drivers. The strike has public backing, with two thirds of respondents in a survey of 1,645 bus passengers agreeing that London’s bus drivers should be paid the same rate.

In contrast to tube drivers, there is no collective pay deal for the bus drivers. Instead there are over 80 different pay rates for drivers doing the same job, and often even the same route, with pay gaps of over £3 an hour for new starters. The walk-out is only the second London-wide bus strike in 50 years. In a consultative ballot in November, 96% of 7,200 bus drivers balloted voted in favour of strike action.

Unite aims to secure a single collective agreement for its bus drivers, covering pay, terms and conditions. According to Unite, a bus drivers salary can be as low as £17,000 per year, rising to around £25,000, depending on employer. The average hourly rate lies just above the London Living Wage, and considering the average London salary is £41,500, it is hardly a fair rate for the job.

Wayne King London regional officer for Unite, said: “London’s bus operators have raked in millions in profits while driving down pay and refusing to tackle pay inequality on the capital’s buses.

“As bus company directors enjoy lottery style salaries, bus drivers doing the same job on the same route are being pitted against one another on different rates of pay.

“Strike action is the last resort. We’ve been forced into this position by the operators’ refusal to even meet with us. Passengers sitting side by side on the same route expect to pay the same fare, so why shouldn’t drivers expect to be paid the same rate?

“The bus operators need to stop pleading poverty in defending pay inequality and collectively start negotiating about a fairer deal for London’s bus workers.”

TfL and Boris Johnson are claiming that bus drivers’ pay is not their responsibility – the bus service was fully privatised 20 years ago. Either the deregulation be reversed by a future government, or the mayor orders TfL to include pay regulations into the contracts given to bus drivers. This makes the mountain Unite has to climb in securing a collective bargaining agreement even harder, and demonstrates the noxious effect privatisation has on workers’ employment rights.

To find out more about collective bargaining, the IER’s Reconstruction After the Crisis: A Manifesto for Collective Bargaining is available for purchase.

A joint publication by the IER and Class (Center for Labour and Social Studies) Trade Unions and Economic Inequality by Lydia Hayes and Tonia Novitz is also available.