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Someone on our side

Unite’s London members stand by Sadiq Khan
Hajera Blagg, Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Londoners will decide the future of their city in tomorrow’s (May 5) mayoral election.


It’s set to be a contest between Labour MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan and Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kensington Zac Goldsmith.


Khan, the son of a London bus driver who grew up on a council estate, has put forward in his campaign a series of measures designed to support average Londoners, who face sky-high rents, prohibitively expensive transport costs and wages that have fallen steeply behind the crippling cost of living.


The stakes for London bus workers are particularly high – their pay, terms and conditions have deteriorated for years after the service was privatised in the 1990s.


Single pay deal

Bus workers have fought tooth and nail together with unions to achieve a single pay deal among all London operators that will put a stop to the race to the bottom that’s ripping up their pay and terms and conditions.


The single pay deal, Khan has promised, will become a reality for bus drivers if he is elected.


“People who use the bus will probably be puzzled to know that even when they pay the same fare, bus drivers don’t get the same pay,” Khan had said when he first made the pledge to introduce a single wage structure. “It doesn’t make sense there are 80 different rates of pay and one bus fare.


“In adopting this new ‘one rate for all’ wage structure, we will remove one of the central reasons for industrial disputes in recent years,” he added.


“This will be good for Londoners who rely on our brilliant bus service and good for the drivers too.”


Unite branch secretary at Putney Bus Garage Joanne Harris told UNITElive why she, as a bus worker and proud Londoner, would be casting her ballot for Sadiq Khan and why she urges other Londoners to do the same.


“Sadiq Khan’s father himself was a London bus driver working at a garage that used to be our sister garage,” she explained. “Khan knows first-hand the struggles that we face and he’s always supported us.


“Getting a single pay deal will be huge for London bus workers,” Harris said. “He’s also supported us with other issues beyond pay, for example ensuring that we have proper lunch facilities and toilet facilities.


“I’ve seen him speak a few times before and I believe he has given Londoners hope,” she added.


Harris noted too that affordable housing would be an issue that’s central to Londoners struggling to get by.


“The problem when politicians talk about affordable housing, they always have a different definition of what ‘affordable’ means,” she said.


Cost of living crisis

Kieran Duffy, a Unite member and waiter for nearly 30 years, explains how he, too, has struggled to cope with the ever-rising cost of living.


“Everything – from rent to food to transport – has trebled, quadrupled or gone up even more over a scant few years,” he said. “Wages have to be in line with these costs or else soon enough the only people living in London will be corporate bankers and lawyers. It’s simply not sustainable.”


Duffy fears that none of his five children will ever be able to get on the property ladder.


“When I first moved to London, we were living in a flat for £450 a month – now the rent is something like £1400 a month,” he explained. “My oldest child is 25. He works at a home for drug addicts and he’s working 24/7 but for a pittance. They’ll pay him maybe £30 for an entire shift. How is he ever going to afford to live in London?”


Duffy notes that he’ll cast his vote for Sadiq Khan because he trusts that the candidate understands the plight of average Londoners.


“He comes from a working-class background and so can empathise with the struggles that we face,” he said. “That can’t be said for Zac Goldsmith – he comes from a family of billionaires. And it’s usually the case that the very wealthy look after their own interests.


“We need someone who can stand up to corporations,” Duffy, who was involved in Unite’s Fair Tips campaign, explained. “That’s precisely why blatantly unfair tipping practices continue – because multinational companies have too much power.”


Duffy was also moved to see so many young people getting involved in the Sadiq Khan campaign.


“Just the other day I saw dozens of people out on the streets leafleting and most of them were young people – it shows that Khan can galvanise those who are now losing out most under austerity and the housing and cost-of-living crisis we face in London.”


Sadiq Khan has pledged to aid Londoners struggling on low wages by rewarding businesses that pay the London Living Wage – now set at £9.40, which is the rate that the Living Wage Foundation says is the minimum necessary to live a decent life in the capital.



Unite member Glyn Robbins manages a small council housing estate in Islington, North London, and has been heavily involved in the growing campaign against the government’s Housing and Planning Bill.


Robbins explains that the Bill represents the single greatest threat to council and social housing in the capital as well as the rest of the UK.


“I’m voting for Khan and specifically for Labour tomorrow because it’s a no brainer – it’s the only party that has specifically committed to fighting the Housing Bill,” he said.


Robbins said that the next London mayor will have significant power to tackle the housing crisis in the capital – an opportunity that the new leader must take seriously.


“We have to stop using buzzwords like ‘affordable’ housing and get down to the business of building council housing,” he said. “Khan grew up in a council estate and so should do everything in his power to extend this opportunity to those who are now languishing on council house waiting lists with nowhere to go.”


Robbins explained, too, that the new mayor must tackle the growing crisis among housing associations.


“Housing associations were initially supposed to be social landlords but they’re moving further and further away from their original purpose and now effectively function as private profiteers,” he said.


“Members working in the sector are suffering under cuts to pay and conditions as well as job losses, whereas those seeking affordable housing through housing associations are being let down, too.”


Khan has pledged to tackle the housing crisis by supporting both councils and housing associations to build more, as well as offering a new type of home, “London Living Rent”, for people struggling to rent privately. Rent for these homes will be based on one-third of average local wages.


Find out more about Sadiq Khan’s plans by visiting our Unite4Sadiq website here.


And don’t forget to tell friends, family and work colleagues to have their voices heard by voting tomorrow. You can find out all you need to know about voting both in London and other May 5th elections here.


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