Friday, 2 March 2012

Olympic-sized Trouble Brewing on London Buses

Public sector union Unite’s attempts to drive bus operators to the negotiating table ahead of the London Olympic Games seems to have failed – so now they are getting a bit shirty.

Neatly following the recent dispute between Underground workers and their bosses over extra pay during the Olympics, the union is alleging that the capital’s bus operators are forcing a confrontation with their bus drivers.

Unite, which represents around 28,000 London bus workers, is seeking a £500 Olympic payment to reward workers for all the extra work they say will be required of them. But the deadline for negotiations has been missed, says Unite, leading union officials to claim that the bus operators are seeking a confrontation.

Transport for London has predicted an extra 800,000 passengers on the London bus network during the London Olympics and Unite believes that its members ought to have a share of all that extra income as it will mean a lot of extra work for them.

The union has pointed out that other transport workers in London have already been offered extra pay for working during the Olympics, and all they want is parity with workers at Network Rail, Virgin Trains and London Overground.

Their colleagues underground are also in the mood for a fight, too. The RMT has now declared its dispute with Transport for London over its claim for extra pay for Tube staff official, leaving the way clear for the union to ballot its members on strike action… which would almost certainly be during the Games.

The chaos that would ensure from a Tube strike during the Olympic Games is almost unimaginable – but add a bus strike into the mix and the government would probably have to mobilise the military (for all the good that would do).

Peter Kavanagh, Unite regional secretary for London, believes that the bus operators are doing their staff, passengers and the capital ‘a huge disservice’ by refusing to meet with Unite to discuss an Olympic payment.

“By burying their heads in the sand for the last three months, London ’s bus operators are forcing a confrontation with 28,000 bus workers,” he says

“Unite is preparing to hold a consultative ballot at the end of March. We are ready and willing to sit down for talks at any time but unfortunately, the dismissive attitude of the employers suggests they are more inclined towards confrontation.”

The union’s leader Len McCluskey came under considerable fire in the media earlier this week when he floated the possibility of agonisingly high-profile public sector strikes during the Olympic Games. Well, he would, wouldn't he?

Looks like it might be a long, hot difficult summer…

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