The bus I drive will not leave its depot today. My decision to take part in the London-wide bus strike has not been as easy one. I don’t want to inconvenience my passengers, but with 15 years under my belt, I’ve seen first-hand how the frenzied competition over London’s bus routes has led to huge disparities in drivers pay.
There are now 18 bus operators in London. Pay is negotiated on a company by company basis which has led to pay gaps of more than £3 an hour with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company. Over the past 15 years I’ve seen my own pay fall by £2.50 an hour.
We’re not being unreasonable or greedy – this isn’t about money. All we’re asking for is one agreement covering the pay, terms and conditions of London’s 27,000 bus workers. In contrast to London tube drivers, London bus drivers are covered by 80 different pay rates. Let’s face it as a passenger you wouldn’t expect to be charged a different fare from the person sitting next to you. So why should bus drivers working the same route for the same company be paid different salaries with such huge variations in pay?
A recent independent survey of 1,645 passengers has shown that Londoners are one our side. Two-thirds agree that London’s bus drivers should be paid the same. We now need the bus operators to stop defending pay inequality and negotiate collectively on pay.
Currently bus routes are put out to tender by TFL every five years with bus companies competing to win them. These companies are winning contracts and raking in millions in profits by driving down our pay.
People often ask me what it’s like to drive a bus in London and I can honestly say it is as varied as the day is long. I love it but it certainly has its challenges, from 3am starts one week to 2am finishes the next. We work 24/7 to keep London running.
Today we’ve been forced to take action because our employers aren’t listening. We’re calling on the bus companies to get around the negotiating table to work out a single agreement that covers all bus drivers’ pay, terms and conditions.
Preston Tabois is a London bus driver and Unite convenorReuse content