11 February 2015
Unite challenges London’s bus firms to Acas talks
Britain’s largest union, Unite laid down the gauntlet to the capital’s 18 bus operators today (Wednesday 11 February) by challenging them to enter into talks at the conciliation service Acas.
The call came as Unite postponed two 24 hour London wide bus strikes, scheduled for Friday 13 February and Monday 16 February, in an act of goodwill to facilitate talks over a collective forum covering the pay and conditions of London’s bus workers.
The move comes as the union seeks legal assurances from Transport for London (TfL) over concerns expressed to Unite, which if true, could mean the transport body has been interfering in the dispute in an unlawful manner.
Unite is also requesting that TfL’s board members sign a neutrality statement vowing not to block talks aimed at resolving the dispute between the union and London’s 18 bus operators.
Unite claims a refusal by the operators to address pay inequality has led to pay gaps of over £3 an hour for new starters opening up, with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company.
So far over 20,000 bus workers working for 18 bus operators have taken part in two days of solidly supported strike action, causing widespread disruption.
Commenting, Unite regional officer Wayne King said: “We call on the capital’s bus operators to seize this window of opportunity and join us collectively in talks at Acas. There can be no excuses for them not to.
“We’ve postponed the two days of strike action in an act of goodwill and we are not asking them to break competition law by meeting us collectively. The ball is firmly in the court of London’s bus companies.
“They have a duty to London’s 6.8 million bus passengers to join us in collective talks to end the pay inequality and pay chaos on London’s buses. All we are asking for is a collective forum to discuss how we can end pay disparities over a sensible timeframe.
“A failure to do so will mean that strike action and the disruption caused by the last two strongly supported strikes will be back on the cards.”
On TfL’s neutrality during the dispute he added: “We urge TfL to start playing a constructive role and sign a public statement of neutrality to confirm that operators can negotiate freely with Unite.
“TfL should have no problems signing such a statement and indeed should welcome the opportunity to clarify its position.”
In contrast to tube drivers, there isn’t one collective pay deal for bus drivers in the capital, whose pay is negotiated on a company by company basis leading to pay inequality and disparities.
There are hundreds of different pay rates covering London’s bus drivers, doing the same job, even driving the same route but for different rates of pay.