Tomorrow, on Thursday 5th February, London bus drivers will walk away from their vehicles in the first of three 24-hour bus strikes planned this month. The strikes, called by Unite the Union, are over the vast pay inequality between London bus drivers. Socialist Appeal offers its full support to the militant struggle of London bus drivers against these attacks by the bosses.
Tomorrow, on Thursday 5th February, London bus drivers will walk away from their vehicles in the first of three 24-hour bus strikes planned this month.
The strikes, called by Unite the Union, are over the vast pay inequality between London bus drivers. Although it might seem that London buses are all part of the same public transport network run by Transport for London (TFL), they are actually operated by 18 different private companies, each with different rates of pay. This means there is a difference of up to £3 per hour in the pay rates depending on which company a driver works for, with even some drivers on the same route earning different amounts.
In response Unite are demanding a single London-wide agreement for pay and conditions. Socialist Appeal wholeheartedly support this demand and the militant struggle of the London bus drivers who are fighting to achieve it.
However, Unite must go further and demand that the private bus companies be pushed aside and the drivers be employed directly by TFL.
Outsourcing and privatisations always lead to attacks on workers wages and conditions, as companies attempt to cut costs and bolster profits. In this context the presence of 18 different employers plays a useful role for the bosses, as they can attempt to divide the workers and play them off against each other. It is privatisation, therefore, that is responsible for the different rates of pay for London bus drivers.
This “divide and rule” strategy of the bosses against the bus drivers is in contrast to London’s tube workers who – through united action and decades of militancy against their employer – have managed to achieve decent levels of pay.
In response to the strike, TFL have claimed that there simply isn’t the money to pay drivers more. In order to do so, they say they would either have to ramp up fares or cut services. But the latest accounts for London’s 18 bus operators show they are making combined profits of £171.7 million, with pay for their fat-cat directors coming to £7.24 million a year. Where then should the money come from to pay drivers what they deserve? The answer is obvious: from the pockets of the parasitic companies preying on our public services.
Socialist Appeal offers London bus drivers our fullest solidarity. The task now is for union leaders to unite and fight against the Tory Coalition and their programme of austerity that is behind the attacks on the pay and conditions of all workers. For example, joint action by Unite and the RMT, with bus drivers joining Tube workers, could paralyse the City and hit the bosses where it hurts – in their profits. Rather than seeing isolated one-day strikes, the call should be for a 24-hour general strike.
At the same time, the leaders of the Labour movement must be putting forward a political solution – that is, a socialist programme – including the nationalisation of the entire transport system, bringing all services back into public ownership as part of a democratic and rational plan of production. This is the only way to end the privatisation and austerity that capitalism demands.
- Same job, same pay! One agreement for all London bus drivers.
- Nationalise the bus companies and use their profits to invest in public transport for all!
- For a 24-hour general strike to bring down the Tory Coalition!
- For the nationalisation of the entire transport system as part of a socialist plan of production!