The RMT took the initiative in launching a National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) at a meeting on 28th October supported by a raft of TU General Secretaries, including out own Tony Woodley. Its founding conference is pencilled in for 5 May 2007. Sympathetic convenors and officials should call a founding meeting for a London busworkers shop stewards and union activists’ network which would affiliate to the NSSN. Only grass roots involvement by the membership at large will begin to reverse the defeats of the last fourteen years.
We must oppose completive tendering which maintains a constant downward pressure on wages not only by setting the bigger companies in direct competition with each other but Livingstone’s TfL continues to award routes to anti-union cowboy companies with the most appalling wages and conditions, often employing and maltreating immigrant labour with scant regard for the law to reap quick profits. This also makes striking more difficult in individual companies because management are able to argue that this puts routes, and therefore jobs, at risk. Although drivers will always be wanted union militants are obviously then at risk of blacklisting.
It is surely possible for the LAC to work out one standard wage claim to be submitted by all London TGWU negotiating teams instead of the tokenistic preamble about parity with tube workers before a ‘realistic’ claim. And what happened to Livingstone’s pledge to restore the TfL pension scheme for all busworkers in London?
We must fight for public ownership under union control. It is TUC and Labour party policy to renationalise the railways and John McDonnell has made it part of his platform in his fight for the Labour party leadership. Why does the TGWU not invite him to make public ownership of the buses part of his platform also if that is what they really want? TfL are still arguable the employer of last resort, as proved by the fact that they took over East Thames buses and included them in the TfL final salary pension scheme.
The London Advisory Committee of bus company convenors has no constitutional legitimacy in the T&G, and has an insulting name to signify that fact. Surely we can easily resolve thus anomaly if the New Union lives up to its promised democracy. The restoration of the quarterly London bus conferences after the meetings of the LAC provides an opportunity to begin to reengage the ranks of the busworkers in their own fight. Only the restoration of the industrial strength of the London fleet will develop the struggles already begun not just for London busworkers but for busworkers nationally and internationally.
■ Launch a London busworkers shop stewards and union activists’ network affiliated to the NSSN.
■ End competitive tendering.
■ Harmonise pay and conditions across London; one ‘rate for the job’ and one set of conditions including pensions.
■ Restore public ownership of the buses under union control.
■ Restore the industrial strength of the London bus fleet.