Stop the buses to win!

Tomorrow 27,000 bus workers in London will be on strike to try and sort out the mess that is their pay scales. Show your solidarity with the striking workers by visiting one of the picket lines at bus garages around London – find the nearest one to you on this handy google map. rs21 has produced a leaflet for use on the picket lines that can be downloaded here

photo: Clive A Brown via flickr

photo: Clive A Brown via flickr

Tomorrow’s strike is a message to Boris, TFL management and the bus boardroom vultures that drivers have had enough. Enough of pay differences of up to £3 an hour for the same job. Enough of a deregulated race to the bottom where pay rates are eroded. Enough of our bosses laughing all the way to the bank.

The strike, covering 18 companies and 27,000 workers, has the power to bring the capital to a virtual standstill. London relies on public transport. Deregulation and competition hit passengers and drivers alike. Decent, harmonised, pay rates across the capital would mean better morale and better service. We have to stop the companies competing to hold down pay, which undermines collective bargaining.

The Olympic 500 campaign won in 2012 but the stakes are higher than a one off bonus this time. Boris and the bosses will be brutal in their condemnation; the Tory press always cast strikers as demons. The Tories have already announced yet more anti-union laws if they get re-elected. They say strike ballots in transport should have the support of over 40% of eligible union members – an affront to democracy. The same standard would remove 288 of the 303 Tory MPs!

In the past bus companies used the anti-union laws to seek injunctions against strikes. Workers are not slaves. Workers should decide whether or not to work – not judges, politicians, the media – or even union officials. Union officials don’t always have the confidence to defy injunctions. The best response is nearly always for workers to decide to strike anyway. The best protection for workers is solidarity and victory, not the law.

Solidarity

If strikers can expect hostility from Boris, the Tories and the press, they can expect support and solidarity from many other workers. Millions have seen their wages eroded by inflation while MPs and the rich keep getting richer. Health workers will be striking over pay on 29 January and 24 February. A win for bus drivers would be a great boost for health workers.

Unite members in the warehouse at Barbour (who make the jackets) in Gateshead are also striking. You can send them a solidarity message via Fazia.Hussainbrown@unitetheunion.org.

It’s a disgrace that rich and powerful figures like union-busting tycoon Rupert Murdoch want to hold all Muslims responsible for the murders in Paris. Murdoch, Farage and too many others want to use the murders to whip up racism, justify more repression and war. There have already been a spate of attacks against Muslims in France. The key to a successful strike is united action with maximum involvement and that means everyone taking a stand against Islamophobia, sexism and bigotry.

No workers expect support from a government comprised of Eton educated Tory and Lib Dem millionaires. But what of Labour? They keep talking about the “cost of living crisis,” so it’s about time Miliband got off his backside and supported workers fighting for decent pay instead of attacking them, staying silent or just asking “everyone to get round the table.” There were two Labour MPs who increased their majorities in the 2010 general election – John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn – two MPs who routinely support strikers. They earn support and win elections.

Unite supports Labour and gives them millions. Working class people ought to be entitled to expect support from Labour rather than just watered down Tory austerity.

Winning

The quickest and surest way to win is to use big pickets to make sure the strike is solid across London, and to escalate the action. Unite members at St Mungo’s recently scored a big win. They took five days of strike, and when they decided to escalate further, management folded like a deckchair on Brighton beach. There may be pressure on Unite from the Labour leadership to avoid a serious fight in the months before an election. Even if Labour win the election, they aren’t going to win pay rises for us – we have to win them for ourselves. There’s no point going into a fight half-heartedly or settling for a fudge which leaves bus operators feel confident to try to claw back our gains.

How to win:

1. Big, active pickets to stop scabbing
2. Strengthen links with other garages and companies
3. Recruit to the union
4. Elect more stewards
5. United action – no to racism, sexism and bigotry
6. Stand up to any intimidation from the media, politicians or courts – only slaves lack the right to strike
7. Ask for solidarity from other workers – have an email or phone number where people can contact you
8. Discuss and decide how you want to escalate the action

Please send photos and reports from the strike to revolutionarysocialism21@gmail.com

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