London bus drivers will strike again for 24 hours on Friday 13 and Monday 16 February in their dispute to level-up pay between bus companies.
This follows a 24 hour strike on Thursday 5 February, and one on Tuesday 13 January. Solidarity visited several picket lines which were lively, confident and staffed throughout the day despite propaganda from Transport for London (TfL) claiming high numbers of services were still running.
Drivers at Hackney Central, an Arriva depot — the lowest payer for starter drivers — told Solidarity that 90% of their services were not running. Arriva driver John told Solidarity that “everyone in the depot says that the bus service should be taken back in house”, referring to the fact that 18 different private bus companies operate across London, making a combined profit of £171.1 million last year.
As strikes continue, management will try harder to find ways to move buses and some workers will drift back to work. Pickets should find ways to prevent buses being moved to make strikes effective.
Drivers at many depots are incredibly well organised, yet drivers at Hackney Central also told Solidarity that “the union needs to tell us more ... they should have meetings with members at depots so we know what is going on.” A lack of information between strikes will demobilise members who are capable of mounting impressive picket lines and turn outs for strikes.
Public support for the strike is high. Deliberate public political campaigning by bus drivers and their union combined with strikes can force TfL and bus companies to back down.
National Gallery sacks union rep
PCS union members at the National Gallery struck for five days from 3 to 7 February in a dispute over outsourcing.
On the day before the strike started, PCS union rep Candy Udwin was suspended from her job. The workers are now calling for her reinstatement as part of the demands of the dispute and 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for her reinstatement.
The National Gallery plans to outsource all of its visitor assistance staff and gallery guards to a private security firm. In what appears to be a trial run of this plan, private security firm CIS have been given one whole wing of the museum to run until the end of this year, without any competitive tender or consultation. CIS have removed chairs gallery assistants use and have bullied and intimidated staff.
Workers claim that the privatisation will lead to them being made to work different and longer hours as well as work on different sites that CIS runs.
On Thursday 5 February, workers and their supporters disrupted a gallery Board of Trustees meeting to hand in a 50,000 strong petition against the privatisation
They then marched down Whitehall to hand the same petition to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who have approved the plans.
• Sign the petition against the privatisation.
ICO workers' pay strike
Members of PCS at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) struck for two days on 3-4 February over low pay at the organisation in comparison to the rest of the civil service.
The strike was solidly supported, with 95% of members (who comprise approximately 60-65% of the workforce) refusing to work.
ICO management tried to coerce staff to accept the pay offer by writing to employees requesting that they give individual consent to the contractual changes. They also threatened to withdraw any pay increase to those who don’t sign. This attempt to divide the workers appears to have backfired, with many employees joining the union after receiving the letter.
PCS members at the ICO will now be doing an eight week work-to-rule and overtime ban.
A vote for further strikes will be held at the branch’s AGM uness moves by management to meet the union’s demands.
Cleaners and porters at the Royal Opera House staged a noisy picket at the BAFTA awards ceremony on 8 February as part of their strike to gain the London Living Wage.
The Royal Opera House had previously agreed to pay the Living Wage. However cleaners and porters in the IWGB union say this has not been implemented. The BAFTA awards and many of the stars attending were seemingly embarrassed by the protest.
Other IWGB cleaning members at Burberry clothing’s flagship store on Regent Street struck on 6-7 February to gain the London Living Wage.
Cleaners say they are “forced to work extra hours without compensation when the staffing levels fall short due to illness, and that in a time of financial stress, they are instructed to pay for their uniform out of their own pocket rather than it being provided by the contractor, ISS.”
Tube drivers vote to strike
As Solidarity went to press on 10 February, the RMT union announced tube drivers voted to strike for the reinstatement of sacked colleague Alex McGuigan by 229 votes to 221.