This strike is about much more than the Olympics. The Olympics bonus is the immediate issue, but people voted yes to this strike because we’re simply fed up with the attacks we’ve faced over the past few years.
We’ve had our Sunday working payments reduced, and we’ve had attacks on our working time. It used to be the case that you were entitled to a ninety-minute paid meal break, and if you came back late you could still take it. That’s gone now; if you come back late, your meal break gets knocked off.
Finishes are getting later and later. It’s not like working in an office or a factory, where you can just walk away when it’s your finishing time. If I’m stuck in traffic on Oxford Street at my finishing time, I can’t just leave the bus.
At my garage, our staff parking has been taken away, which makes it very difficult for us to get to work, especially if we’re on an early start. If we live any distance from the garage, and we can’t drive to work because there’s nowhere to park, how are we supposed to get in if we have to start at three in the morning? There was talk about providing staff buses for us when they got rid of the parking, but nothing’s happened. They’re saying they’ll put a staff bus on for us during the Olympics, but it’s hard to believe them. I’ve put in for a transfer to a garage closer to where I live, but I’ve been on the waiting list for three years.
People are saying that this strike is last-minute, but it’s not; negotiations have been going on for nine months, so management has had nearly a year to sort this issue out. Bosses are using the recession as a cover to attack us, but it’s not as if we’re workers in a factory where production has dropped because of an economic collapse. People are actually using the bus more during the recession, because it’s a cheaper form of transport, so our workload has gone up and our bosses are making more money, but we’re still facing attacks.
Transport for London is desperate to make as much revenue as they can, so they’ve got revenue inspectors on buses really scrutinising people’s tickets. As drivers, we only get a flash of a travel card or a ticket so we can’t be expected to catch all the people who’re travelling on expired or invalid tickets. Revenue inspectors get a good long look at them, but then book the drivers for failing to catch it! It’s all about generating as much money as they can, even if it means penalising workers.
That’s really what this strike is about. Drivers are simply at the end of our tether. Staff turnover is getting higher and higher; I know people who’ve only lasted six weeks in the job. Increasingly the only people they can find to do the job are people off the dole queue who can’t get anything else. That’s how bad it’s got.
This strike has shown people that we can come together and take action. That in itself will give people confidence. People are prepared to dig in over this one and we see it as a key into the wider issues. I’ve worked here for sixteen years, and for the first fourteen years I was never involved in strike action. If you’d have said to me during those fourteen years that bus workers could come out and strike, I wouldn’t have believe you. But once you’ve done it, you know it can be done.