London bus strike causes travel chaos

 

London bus workers went ahead with a strike today in a dispute over an Olympic bonus, causing travel disruption, with warnings of further walkouts.

Unite said support for the 24-hour stoppage among its members at 17 bus companies was "solid", with picket lines mounted outside depots across the capital.

The union warned that further strike action would be bigger as it vowed to appeal against a High Court injunction granted to three bus companies yesterday preventing its members there from joining today's walkout.

London regional secretary, Peter Kavanagh, said: "Support for today's strike action is solid and shows that bus workers are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder to get the recognition they deserve in keeping London moving during the Olympics.

"Today's strike comes as bus operators hide behind an anti-democratic court injunction and refuse to settle the dispute. We will fight to get the injunction overturned and further action will be bigger if Transport for London and the bus operators continue to bury their head in the sand.

"The strike should be a wake-up call to the bus companies and TfL. They now need to negotiate meaningfully about rewarding bus workers for the massive increase in workload they will face over the Olympics.

TfL said over a third of bus services were operating as it urged bus passengers to walk or cycle if possible or switch to other forms of transport.

Hopes had been raised that the strike could be averted after London mayor Boris Johnson announced that £8.3 million was available for bus companies to pay a bonus, but talks at the conciliation service Acas ended without agreement.

Mr Johnson said: "I am saddened, disappointed and enormously frustrated that despite brokering £8.3 million of funding, union leaders and the private bus companies have failed to reach agreement, and as a result it looks likely that Londoners will face unnecessary and needless disruption."

Transport commissioner Peter Hendy said: "It is now clear that the leadership of Unite were intent on a strike all along. They have pursued this unnecessary course of action despite an extra £8.3 million being brokered by the mayor that would allow every bus driver in London in a garage where one or more routes were affected by the 2012 Games to gain, over the 29 days of the competitions, about £500.

"Despite additional offers to supplement this from the bus companies, the Unite leadership have refused to defer the strike to give time for further negotiations or for any of the offers to be put to their members. I'm sorry that Londoners are therefore going to be disrupted today.

"We are now working together with our partners to ensure that Londoners and visitors have alternative travel options and the necessary advice to enable them to get around. I would advise everybody to use other transport services, to consider walking and cycling for shorter journeys and to check before travelling."

The strike will continue until 3am tomorrow.

PA

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