Voices from the bus strike picket lines
Jake works as a bus engineer and was outside West Ham bus garage on strike for the first time. “It’s great to see everyone out together,” he said.
“Everyone’s had enough of what’s happening. It makes being in a union more meaning when we come out in the rain and do something instead of just talking.
He brushed off the legal attempts to scupper the strike. “They know that we can cause chaos, so they’ll do everything they can stop us with legal loopholes. But that—and Boris Johnson when he tries to threaten people—is only going to make people more determined to strike.”
Bus driver Ben Chipperfield has struck twice before, but never with all the other drivers in London. “To get the backing of everyone makes a huge difference,” he said.
“We’re striking for £500, and some people say striking for that sum of money isn’t worth the pay we lose —especially if we end up being out for three days or more. But it isn’t about the money, it’s the point of principle that’s behind it.
“We’ve never been appreciated as bus drivers. We’re undervalued for everything we do. People don’t know what it’s like from the inside—how patient we need to be, how we’re always up before 2am. And everything we have to put up with will just escalate during the Olympics.”
Ben’s partner Melissa is also a driver. She said, “We’re not even allowed to take time off during the Olympic period. Some people have even been told they can’t even have weekends.
“We work so much we hardly see our kids. Spending a few weeks with them in the summer holidays is like their little treat for the year. Now we’ll be working the whole six weeks that they’re out of school.”
Pickets were in high spirits over at Westbourne Park bus garage in west London. One rep told Socialist Worker, “This is not like the other bus strikes—this time we’re all out together.
“The companies are taking us for granted. London will be at a standstill today, and it is Transport for London who should apologise to the public, not us. But they don’t actually care—so this is what they’re getting. And there’s links between our strike and the public sector strikes. We all deserve more respect.”
Errol Whyte, a bus engineer at Westbourne Park, echoed this theme of solidarity. “Our fight for Olympic pay is the same as public sector workers strikes for their pensions.
“It was good the doctors took action yesterday. After working hard all your life, people deserve a decent pension. It’s unbelievable when you look at the bonuses of directors and bankers—they’re outrageous compared to ordinary workers’ pay.
“A lot of people are scared. They’ve got their mortgages they can’t pay and they keep their heads down. But if we don’t fight it can only get worse. There’s been cars tooting us and a lot more public support than before. I hope our strike can show people there’s an alternative to just accepting this bullshit.”