Fresh London bus strikes as peace talks fail

London United bus drivers to take strike action this week after talks failed to secure breakthrough

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London will face fresh bus strikes this week after peace talks failed to secure a breakthrough in the dispute over proposed attacks on conditions and real terms pay cuts.

Bus drivers at the RATP subsidiary, London United will take strike action this week on Wednesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 1. There are also further strikes scheduled after Easter for Wednesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 14.

The London United dispute is a result of RATP seeking to use the Covid-19 pandemic as cover to slash the pay and conditions of drivers.

Following four days of negotiations last week, RATP made an offer for the outstanding pay increases for 2019 and 2020 and also sought to introduce new contract clauses. The pay offer fell well below the expectations of members and the proposed changes to conditions had not been previously discussed, and as such Unite was unable to propose the offer to members at this stage.

London United operates depots in South and West London. The strikes this week will affect buses operating from Fulwell, Hounslow, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush and Tolworth garages.

Unite is also balloting two further London United bus depots at Hounslow Heath and Stamford Brook and if they vote for strike action then they could also take strike action next month.

RATP are cutting pay and conditions in order to boost profits. The company’s latest accounts (2019) show the French owned group is highly lucrative. It had an annual turnover in excess of 5 billion euros and at the same time Christine Chardon, the chief executive of their London based operation, saw her pay dramatically increased from £196,000 to £363,000.

Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy said, “The forthcoming strikes will inevitably cause severe disruption to thousands of bus passengers.

“Unite members are taking this action as a last resort, as they will not allow RATP to use the cover of the Covid pandemic to downgrade their pay and conditions,” she added.

“RATP is an extremely wealthy company, that has made numerous investments throughout the UK and Europe over the past 18 months and it can easily afford to treat our members fairly. The planned attacks on workers’ conditions is simply about boosting profits now and in the future,” Braveboy continued.

“Unite continues to be available for talks to resolve this dispute but it is incumbent on RATP to come forward with proposals which will meet our members aspirations.”

Meanwhile the dispute at another RATP subsidiary London Sovereign, which operates bus services in North West London (Edgware and Harrow depots) has concluded after members accepted an improved pay offer.

By Barckley Sumner

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