‘A convenient smokescreen’ for pay cuts

Bus bosses accused of using pandemic for pay cuts, as 2,200 drivers set to strike

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London bus passengers will face serious disruption as Unite confirmed today (February 19) that 2,200 bus drivers employed by RATP will strike next week over a sustained attack on their pay packets.

Unite accused the French-owned RATP of using the pandemic as ‘a convenient smokescreen’ to attempt to implement pay policies that could see some of their drivers lose up to £2,500-a-year.

RATP operates three subsidiaries across the London bus network: London United, London Sovereign and Quality Line.

Workers at London United, which provides bus services in south and west London will take strike action on Monday 22 February, Tuesday 23 February and Wednesday 24 February. Due to the proposed contracts drivers face wage cuts of £2,500 which will reduce wages to 2015 levels.

Workers at Quality Line, based at its depot in Epsom, Surrey, will take strike action on Monday 22 February and Tuesday 23 February in a dispute over pay. The drivers earn £2.50 an hour less than drivers at RATP’s other subsidiaries. The workers have been offered a derisory pay offer of 0.5 per cent (seven pence an hour).

Unite members at London Sovereign, who operate services in north west London, will take strike action on Monday 22 February in a pay dispute. The workers have been offered a pay increase of just 0.75 per cent, which is well below what has been offered by other operators. A further strike date has been announced for Wednesday 3 March.

‘Serious disruption’

“The strike action planned for next week will go ahead at RATP, bringing serious disruption to services in the south, west and north of London,” commented Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy.

“RATP remains hell-bent on using the pandemic as a convenient smokescreen to attack key worker terms and conditions which, if implemented, will see drivers at London United lose up to £2,500-a-year, when the cost of living in the capital is soaring.

“These are not temporary changes, but permanent ones that will see members suffer a substantial financial loss. The dispute regarding the zero contract hours has also not been resolved.

“Members at London Sovereign are angry at the derisory offer and the strength of feeling is the same for those at Quality Line who are still some of the lowest paid drivers on Transport for London (TFL) routes. The bosses should have used this opportunity to address the disparity in pay for all drivers at the Epsom garage.”

Braveboy continued,“Our members have no option other than to fight back against these attacks, while recognising the disruption caused.

“They are reluctant to take strike action at a time of national emergency, but feel they have been pushed against the wall by hardline directors.

“Even at this late stage, RATP has the opportunity to avert the strikes by withdrawing the threat to terms and conditions, continuing the negotiations and making a fair offer to our members,” she concluded.

By Shaun Noble

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