Hopes raise for moves to avert London bus strike


Money is available for an Olympic bonus for London bus workers, Boris Johnson revealed today, raising hopes that a planned strike on Friday could be averted.

More than 20,000 members of the Unite union are to walk out for 24 hours in pursuit of a claim for a £500 bonus, threatening travel chaos.

The Mayor of London told the London Assembly that a pot of £8.3 million was available from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) for bus companies to compensate their drivers.

"I urge them to do the right thing by their workforce and by Londoners and get on and negotiate. I would say to those that are seriously proposing a strike that would be greatly disruptive.

"I say to them that cash is available but it is only available on the condition that Londoners are not disrupted and that there is no strike."

"It is up to the employers to get on and do the deal.

"There is ODA cash available to the tune of £8.3 million to compensate workers who are genuinely going to be doing more during the Olympic and Paralympics.

"In so far as they are going to be doing more there is cash available from the ODA. It is absolutely vital that the bus companies now pull their fingers out and do this deal."

Peter Kavanagh, Unite's regional secretary for London, said: "This 11th-hour intervention still raises more questions than it answers.

"It beggars belief that Boris Johnson has waited so long to intervene and the Mayor has still not been in direct contact with us or responded to our request for a meeting.

"Unite met with the Olympic Delivery Authority last Friday and we believe they were listening, so we cautiously welcome the money being made available by the authority.

"The Mayor cannot now just walk away and leave it to the bus companies. We expect genuine involvement and intervention from the Mayor and Transport for London to ensure the bus companies fulfil their duty to recognise fully the role their workers will be playing in making the Olympics a success.

"We cannot call the strike off until we hear from the bus companies and we are persuaded that TfL is serious about resolving this dispute. With only 36 hours left, every minute counts.

"There are 20 bus operators - it's imperative there's a single forum to meet with the bus companies and TfL's involvement is vital in order to secure a deal."

* The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it planned to ballot its members on Greater Anglia, which includes the Stansted Express, for strikes in a dispute over an Olympic bonus.