The Socialist 2 September 2008 |
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London buses: Strikers pack picket lines
I went to Westbourne Park bus garage in west London, during their strike over pay on 29 August. There are nearly 1,000 drivers at the garage and the strike there was solid. I was told that only 20 buses out of 900 were on the road. Indeed there were fleets of red double deckers lined up, parked, not going anywhere.
The strike started at 3am that morning. I arrived at 6.45pm and there were still around 40 people there.
I was told by one driver that he normally does a late shift and he had arrived at the picket line for 2pm. He estimated that there were 300 people on the picket line at that point.
They didn't have much in the way of material - no leaflets, no posters, no placards, just a couple of A3 size signs saying 'equal pay'.
However the mood was strong and it did seem that around half of all drivers at that garage had actually come to the picket line, rather than just stay off work.
Strikers were saying that they were the worst paid of all London bus drivers. Their pay was generally £1.50 an hour lower than that of other drivers.
They also said that it was the norm to get a lower rate of pay until you had passed your probationary period (6-12 months) but at Westbourne Park it was three years on the lower grade of pay. Also you have to work five years before qualifying for paid sick leave!
Workers were talking about the blow to management and profits that the strike would deal and also spoke about the next planned strike day on 12 September.
They said when the tube goes on strike, the buses take the strain. However, the tube would not be able to take the strain of all the buses going strike.
They were making clear links with RMT workers on the tube.