By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter
London bus drivers fear their pay will be cut by over £2,000 a year, and plan to strike in a matter of days.
Nearly 2,000 bus drivers are due to go on strike later this month over the wage cuts.
It comes as Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that 47 London bus drivers have died after catching Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Organised by the Unite trade union, the 24-hour strikes will take place over three days from February 22-24.
The striking drivers are employed by three bus companies owned by French multinational RATP Group. They operate routes in South, West and North-West London under contracts with TfL.
RATP was approached for comment but could not respond in time. The company operates 100 bus routes in London, and it’s not yet clear how services will be affected by the strike.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We urge RATP and Unite the Union to talk through the issues and to try to resolve them as soon as possible.”
According to the trade union, drivers employed by London United could have their wages cut by an average of £2,500 a year.
This is because drivers would no longer be paid during their breaks, or any time that isn’t spent behind the wheel of a bus, when they are “logged in”.
The new contracts would also see drivers start and end their shifts at different bus stops, rather than at bus garages. They would be told by an app which bus stop to commute to for each shift.
A London United bus driver who works in West London, and who asked to speak anonymously, said: “I could lose £2,000 a year or more. It’s criminal what they’re trying to do. It’s disgusting.
“Losing that much money would change everything for me. I would have to do overtime to earn a living. It’s absolutely crazy.
“There’s no thought for the employee and everything is about making profit.
“And they haven’t been engaging with the union, even though they will say they are. And they will probably say it’s ‘not a good time to go on strike’.”
Another South West London bus driver added: “Drivers are already working long hours and getting fatigued. This will affect people’s safety.
“And things like drug and alcohol checks are taken at the bus garages, those won’t happen if drivers are starting their shifts at different bus stops.”
Drivers employed by another of the operators, Quality Line, will take strike action on February 22 and 23.
Unite said the Quality Line drivers earn £2.50 an hour less than drivers at RATP’s other two firms, and were offered a 0.5 per cent pay rise – equal to 7 pence per hour.
Drivers at the third company, London Sovereign – which operates routes in North West London – will strike only on February 22.
Their workers have been offered a pay increase of 0.75 per cent, which is well below what has been offered by other operators, Unite said.
Another bus driver from East London said his employer, Tower Transit, had offered staff a 2.5 per cent rise for two consecutive years.
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.
Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.