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bus drivers carrying signs as part of their strike

Bus strikes suspended across south west London after new RATP pay offer

Bus strikes across south west London were suspended on Monday, after the operator made an offer that may resolve long running disputes over pay and working conditions.

Since the start of April, London United bus drivers have taken industrial action against the RATP, the French public transport operator that owns United, due to its refusal to offer pay increases that satisfy the drivers’ outstanding pay claims.

But last week the RATP made a revised pay offer to drivers that Unite, the union that represents the drivers, deemed reasonable enough to halt strike plans on Monday.

However the details are yet to be finalised and if the pay offer is rejected then strikes will continue.

A commuter from Hammersmith bus station, Shosha Adie, 22, said: “It’s been a nightmare.

“There was so many people on the bus that people were stacked together like sardines.

“Lots of people seem really angry about it.”

She added that an elderly woman in a wheelchair was crying on the bus due to concerns for her safety.

BUS STRIKES: Commuters packed in on a bus. Credit: Shosha Adie

Bus drivers said they faced £2500 cuts to their salaries, after changes to their contracts meant they would no longer receive pay for breaks or time spent waiting for buses to arrive and would only be paid for time spent ‘logged’ into their vehicles.

Tensions were heightened after the drivers, members of the trade union Unite, were told the RATP’s board were only prepared to offer a pay rise of less than 1% for 2019, when the managing director of RATP’s London-based operation, Catherine Chardon, saw her pay increase by 54%, from £196,000 to £363,000, in the same year.

Unite officer Michelle Braveboy said: “RATP appears to have plenty of money to pay its corporate fat cats and invest in refurbishing its offices, but when it comes to paying the bus drivers who are essential to its operation it claims the cupboard is bare.”

Unite stressed that drivers have not received a pay rise in three years, and that the 2019 pay offer would amount to a wage cut in real terms for the drivers. 

However Braveboy said: “The revised offer made by the RATP is a positive development.”

BUS DRIVERS ON STRIKE: Bus drivers strike over pay and working conditions. Credit: Karen Viquerat

The strikes are taking place across London, but the areas most affected by the strikes are: White City/Shepherds Bush, Acton, Heathrow, Hounslow, Kingston, Richmond, Surbiton, Wimbledon and Sutton. 

Industrial action took place on the 1st, 7th and 15th of April and although bus strikes were suspended on Monday, they will continue on the 6th and 7th of May if matters are not resolved.

Transport for London advises passengers to allow more time for travel on strike days and to use the journey planner and check status updates to stay informed about what buses are running.

The RATP has not responded to a request for comment.

Featured image credit: Karen Viquerat

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