Transport for London

When the Olympic games finally arrive in London this summer, it will mean an increase in workload for a lot of people.

Transport workers, in particular will have to deal with busier buses, more traffic and potentially more shifts. In recognition of the extra work that will be involved, the union Unite has requested that bus drivers are awarded a £500 bonus. According to Unite, the equivalent of more than 9,000 double-decker busloads of extra passengers will be using transport in London for the Olympics.

It has been suggested that there could be a strike if employers are not seen to take this request seriously by at least entering into discussions. Transport for London (TfL) have replied that the drivers already receive adequate payment for their overtime hours. Adding to the discontent, however is the fact that train and tube drivers have already agreed on bonus arrangements. According to Unite's website, TfL have reportedly given clearance for the London Underground to offer 'Olympic payments' and at least £600 to be paid to workers at the London Over-ground. In addition, workers at Network Rail will get £500 and Docklands Light Railway staff will get £900, plus guaranteed overtime at enhanced rates. Finally, Virgin Rail has agreed a £500 Olympic payment.

The problem cited by TfL is that the bus drivers in London work for several different companies, none of which have yet agreed to speak to Unite. The Head of Operations for TfL explained that the bus companies in their own capacity are responsible for setting the pay and conditions of their workers. For this reason, the union has to make its attempts for negotiation with each of the bus companies in London rather than with TfL.

Unite currently represent 24, 000 bus drivers. The Regional Secretary of Unite, Peter Kavanagh, feels the resistance of the bus companies is a "massive error of judgement.” He went on to explain how “the London bus is an iconic symbol for London and bus workers will be on the front line dealing with the extra congestion and helping passengers find their way around." Surely the extra work that bus drivers are likely to encounter deserves at least the same recognition as the other transportation services in London?

The drivers have threatened to strike during the Olympics if progress is not made, for which time is swiftly running out. Despite the significant extra pressure, the various operators seem reluctant to recognise the contribution their bus workers will be making to the overall success of the Olympics. Nine out of ten drivers represented by Unite, voted in favour of a strike in a consultative ballot. This has further led to Unite preparing for a formal ballot therefore making the decision to strike ever more likely.

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