London bus passengers should brace for further severe disruption this week, Unite the union has warned, after fresh strikes in a dispute over pay and terms and conditions were called.
The industrial action involves French-owned bus operator RATP and its three London subsidiaries; London United, Quality Line and London Sovereign. In the region of 2,000 bus drivers are involved in the dispute.
Fresh strike action
The fresh strike action follows a number of strikes held last week on Monday 22 February, Tuesday 23 February and Wednesday 24 February.
In a divide and rule approach, RATP is attempting to treat workers in each subsidiary differently and play one set of workers off against the other.
The first round of the new strike action will involve drivers employed on the London Sovereign subsidiary. The drivers, who operate routes in North West London, will undertake a one day strike on Wednesday 3 March.
Further strikes at London Sovereign have been scheduled for Wednesday 10 March and Wednesday 17 March. With all pupils returning to schools from Monday 8 March, this will cause additional disruption and delays in London.
The London Sovereign dispute involves pay, with RATP offering the workers an increase of just 0.75 per cent, well below what other London bus operators have offered drivers.
London United strikes
The London Sovereign strikes will be followed by workers at London United renewing their strike action on Friday 5 MarchandSaturday 6 March. The drivers operate routes across South and West London.
The dispute is a result of RATP seeking to use the Covid-19 pandemic as cover to slash the pay and conditions of drivers. The drivers face cuts in pay of £2,500 per annum, cutting pay to 2015 rates, with workers expected to work far longer for the lower pay rates.
Quality Line industrial action
Bus drivers on the Quality Line subsidiary, based at its depot in Epsom Surrey, will also be staging strikes on Friday 5 MarchandSaturday 6 March, in a pay dispute.
The Quality Line drivers are among the lowest paid in the capital, earning £2.50 an hour less than drivers at the other RATP subsidiaries. The company has offered them a miserly increase of seven pence an hour (0.5 per cent).
The first wave of strike action caused considerable disruption across London. Despite this RATP has made no indication that it is prepared to enter into negotiations to resolve the dispute.
Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy said: “Bus drivers at RATP are resolved that attacks on their pay and conditions will be abandoned and that they will secure a meaningful pay rise.
“It is simply disgraceful that RATP is using the cover of COVID-19 to try to force through these cuts.
“London’s bus drivers have kept the city moving through successive lockdowns but have also suffered a terrible penalty, through very high numbers of Covid deaths, as a result of their dedication and sacrifice.
“This strike action is being taken as a last resort. This dispute is a direct result of RATP failing to treat its workers reasonably and fairly.
“RATP is attempting to boost its profits by cutting workers’ pay, either directly or in real terms.
“Further strike action can still be avoided and Unite is prepared to enter into negotiations to resolve this dispute at any time.”