Around 2,200 bus drivers in London employed by RATP, a operator in the London Bus Network, went on strike this week to protest deteriorating terms and conditions of work. The first round of strike actions went on from Monday, February 22, to Wednesday, with walkouts also planned for the next week in the three RATP subsidiaries — London United, London Sovereign and Quality Line. The call for the strike was given by the Unite union. Unite has accused the French-owned RATP of using the pandemic as a pretext to attempt pay cuts that could see some of their drivers lose up to 2,500 Pounds (3039.57 USD) a year.
According to reports, workers at London United, which operates services in south and west London, went on strike from February 22 to 24. Workers at Quality Line, based in a depot in Epsom, Surrey, went on strike on February 22 and 23. Drivers at London Sovereign, which operates in north west London, went on strike on February 22 and a strike action is also scheduled for March 3.
Unite regional officer for RATP Michelle Braveboy said that “The strike action at RATP is to bring serious disruption to services in the south, west and north of London. 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”, added Michelle Braveboy.
The cuts in wages are a double blow for bus drivers in London as they have been already in distress due to the pandemic. In April last year, unions including Unite, had demanded enhanced safety measures for transport workers in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases among bus drivers across the UK, especially in London.