London bus drivers face pressure for cuts in pay

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MORE THAN 7,000 London bus drivers and conductors face pay reductions and extra hours because of the increased commercial pressures of privatisation, writes Christian Wolmar.

They are being asked to sign a document agreeing to changes in conditions which amount to as much as a 20 per cent loss of take- home pay. Hourly pay rates are being cut, for example from pounds 5.61 to pounds 5.23 for the driver of a one- person operated bus. Payments for working split shifts, enabling drivers to work both the rush hours with a lengthy rest period in between, are being reduced.

The staff affected are being offered lump sums of up to pounds 3,000 as an inducement to sign and are being warned that they may be dismissed if they do not agree to do so.

London Buses is divided into 10 main subsidiaries which are due to be offered for privatisation, probably early next year, and complete deregulation is planned for 1995.

The subsidiaries, in the letters to their staff, say that the cuts are essential in order to avoid losing jobs when the government grant system is changed on 1 April this year.

Currently the subsidiaries receive a 'block grant' totalling around pounds 120m, but under the new system London Transport will pay a specific amount of subsidy on each route, putting on a financial squeeze.

Today, passengers are to be leafleted by trade unions warning about the effects of privatisation and deregulation. On Friday, drivers are to be balloted by their union, the TGWU, on whether to take industrial action.