pic: Mena solidarity
In their ballot, 94% of Unite bus drivers voted for strike action. Unfazed by this evidence of overwhelming support, three bus companies, Metroline, Aviva and London General obtained High Court injunctions to stop the strike. I gather that the injunction was far from entirely effective, even within these three companies. Elsewhere, more than one bus depot saw over 100 workers join the picket lines. The bus drivers’ demands are satisfyingly modest. In return for the longer hours bus drivers will face, and the stress of having to drive buses filled with the several million tourists expected in London for the Olympics, the bus drivers are seeking merely a one-off Olympic bonus of just £500.
Anyone who has been inside a London bus depot will know that these are among some of the most run-down workplaces in London, showing every sign of chronic underfunding. The buildings are decayed, training opportunities are minimal. Staff salaries average at around £20-£25k, and this in a city where the average one-bedroom house sells for £317,000. Yet Transport for London is not a struggling business; last year it paid 400 of its executives over £100,000.
Bus drivers are not the only London workers to find themselves struggling in the shadow of the Olympics: you can add to the list delivery drivers for the main catering companies (banned from taking holidays during the Olympics), private security guards (whose salaries are determined by a contract in which the contractors gets to keep £2 for every £1 pound by which they can reduce their hourly rate below £10, and anyone working in the vicinity of the Olympic hotspots (i.e. anywhere in zone 1).
This may explain why among the sponsors of the Counter Olympics Network demonstration on July 28 can be found 6 of London’s trades councils: Brent, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Lewisha, and Waltham Forest. More details below: