Union leaders have suspended strikes by Abellio bus workers in south London. Some 1,900 workers had struck for 23 days, but planned action on Monday and Tuesday this week has been called off by reps—without mass meetings.
Strikers voted to reject the most recent pay offer by 786 votes to 373. Bosses have not improved what’s on the table, but reps at four of the six garages voted to halt action until 20 February.
That’s when a seven-day series of strikes is due to begin. Unite rep Sarah Liles told Socialist Worker that Abellio bosses had a plan “to make the union suffer”.
“On Fridays we normally get to stand down from work and go to the union office, but they refuse to honour that now,” she said. “It means drivers can’t speak to us about their concerns.” She added, “A lot of drivers pay their union subs straight from their wages, because we get paid weekly it’s easy to do that. But now the company isn’t doing that and drivers have to set up a direct debit.”
Jon Eardley, Abellio London’s managing director, has said, “There will be no further meetings. There will be no further offers.” So drivers face the prospect of losing the momentum after the strikes have been pulled—and no improved offer.
The bus drivers shouldn’t settle for less than their initial demand of £20 an hour minimum and above inflation pay rises for new drivers. But it will require an even more serious fight. Abellio is a multinational giant which trousered profits of £350 million in 2021.
Sarah said, “Everyone finds it hard to strike right now but workers keep coming out because the company keeps upsetting them.” Workers have shown their bravery and determination to keep striking—even going against the Unite bureaucracy which recommended accepting the last offer.
But the union’s strategy of on-off strikes, with long periods in between, hasn’t been enough to make Abellio cough up. A renewed drive for mass picketing at depots would help keep the strike solid. At the beginning of the dispute the Battersea and Walworth pickets included around 50 workers.
This could be coupled with protests of strikers and supporters outside City Hall, Transport for London or Abellio head offices. They would help raise the profile of the dispute, draw in further solidarity from across the trade union movement and boost workers’ confidence to keep striking.
The best response to Abellio’s all-out attack would be moving to an all-out strike, sustained with solidarity from across the wider labour movement. The strike is a marker for bus workers everywhere.Original post