I have been following various blogs and news websites where the public have left comments in the most talked about strike by the workers of a London public service.
It is sad to see that many see this only as ‘bus drivers being greedy’. Many comments seem to follow the thinking that the drivers are asking for a payment for something which should be their ‘normal work related duties’. Ignorance about what has been happening in this industry can lead people to form this opinion, I understand that. Just the way, I also understand that this has been happening to ordinary workers across the board – in public services, government/council offices where people’s well established pay structures and benefit systems and pensions are being attacked and cut back. All this while the rich are getting richer even in this environment of cut-backs and ‘austerity’.
Bus drivers, across London, are now working much longer hours with shorter breaks than they were only 12 months ago and fewer basic facilities (like toilets and canteens!) – where is HSE (Health & Safety Executive)? Their pay structures are being altered significantly with new drivers being paid very low salaries and no scope of this increasing for the first 3-5 years. The older, established drivers live under constant fear that the most minor or insignificant misdemeanours are being used as an excuse to terminate their employment, all because they are deemed to be a stumbling block in raising company profits. Sick pay and holiday structures are being altered to favour the employers. The Unions have colluded with the employers and dupe the drivers – many of whom seem to have a blind faith in their Union representatives – to get these practices and changes enshrined into the new ‘terms and conditions’ of employment.
These attacks on driver conditions have led to a more disgruntled workforce and reduced loyalty towards their employers. This has also led to the emergence of new unions who seem to offer an alternative to the monopoly of the one Union which has claimed to be ‘representing’ the London Bus Drivers for years! It is this development, I believe, which has led Unite (oops! I let the name out.) to take a stand to ’show’ the drivers that the Union stands behind them, in asking for the “Olympic Bonus”, although it has been silent for the last year while the pay and work conditions of Drivers have been under attack by almost all operating companies in London. The drivers have no option, but to go along with this strike call, because they see this as their only opportunity to get heard and get something back after years of pay-freeze and reduced pay and benefits – all this while the operating companies’ owners are seeing their personal income and company profits rise even in these times.
More later, but please show some sympathy, although it is appreciated that such strike actions do cause significant discomfort to the public which uses the bus services on a daily basis. The walkout in November last year by over 2 million public service workers was for the same moral reason!