London bus strike: workers vote to stage three days of strikes in dispute over pay
London bus workers are set to stage three days of strikes next month in a dispute over pay, unions have said. Workers will stage a planned walkout on February 5, February 13 and February 16, the Unite union said. They are calling for equal pay across the capital's 18 bus operators. Drivers' pay can differ by as much as £3 per hour, from £9.30 to £12.34, a union spokesman said.
The strikes follow a walkout over the same issue earlier this month, which caused travel chaos for millions of commuters. Wayne King, Unite regional officer, said strike action was a "last resort". He said: “We have been working tirelessly in our efforts to bring the employers to the table to discuss a solution to this dispute. "We firmly believe that there is a simple solution to be had but sadly the refusal by the operators to engage in collective talks is risking the inevitable disruption that strike action will bring to passengers. "The travelling public understand that further strike action is the last resort and can be avoided if the operators agree to talk collectively about the pay chaos on London’s buses. "
He continued: "Bus passengers pay one fare, so why don’t bus drivers get paid the same rate for doing the same job? "We urge London’s bus operators to see sense and collectively engage in talks to give London’s bus workers a fair deal."
But Mike Weston, Transport for London's director of buses, said it made "no sense" to pay drivers the same rates as they all have "different levels of experience". He said increasing wages for some drivers would cost about £100million a year, resulting in cuts to services or an increase in fares. In a statement, he said: “I am very sorry that the leadership of Unite are threatening to further disrupt the journeys of bus passengers, especially given that only 16 per cent of the bus drivers voted for strike action. “As the bus companies who employ the drivers have said, it makes no sense to pay all drivers precisely the same amount. As in all professions, bus drivers have different levels of experience and it is only right that this can be reflected in pay. "A ‘levelling up’ of pay to the highest rates would cost around £100 million a year and would result in a cut to bus services, an increase in fares, or both." He continued: London has one of the best and most extensive bus networks anywhere in the world. It would be much better if the leadership of Unite actually worked with the bus companies to ensure that it remains that way rather than disrupting bus passengers.”