London party

Reject Unite’s latest sold-out pay deal at Arriva London South bus company! Form rank-and-file strike committees!

Unite the union has suspended next Monday’s 48-hour bus strike at Arriva London South (ALS) to vote on another offer of below inflation pay to drivers.

Less than 24 hours after Wednesday’s massive one-day strike all but paralyzed services at Arriva South, Unite rushed into talks with company executives.

Arriva bus workers on the picket line this week. (Sadie Robinson/Twitter)

The deal they cooked up is an insult. It provides for a pay rise of 3.5% plus a lump sum of £250. Unite representatives explained: “This consists of a 3% increase from 1 August 2021, and a further 0.5% increase from 1 April 2022 and a cash payment of £250.00”.

Unite representatives claimed they were “forced to bring it back” to vote because it was “an improved offer”. In fact, the deal is worse than Arriva’s last offer made to Unite on May 4, including 3% retroactive to August 2021 and a lump sum of £300.

The additional 0.5% will be subtracted from the 2022 pay deal which has yet to be negotiated. For this reason it cannot be counted as an ‘enhanced’ salary award for 2021. The lump sum has been reduced by £50. By the union’s own admission, four months’ back pay was sacrificed for £250.

Arriva South drivers reacted angrily to the deal. Some have calculated that drivers would lose around £420 in back pay for a one-off £250 ‘bonus’. Many drivers at garages in Brixton, Thornton Heath, Norwood and Croydon are already calling for the deal to be rejected, calling it ‘rubbish’, ‘daylight theft’ and other more expressive terms.

Unite representatives say accepting Arriva’s offer will “drain the decks” for this year’s wage negotiations. But as drivers have asked, how can agreeing to a below-inflation reward for 2021 lay the groundwork for an above-inflation pay rise for 2022?

In March 2022, the 12-month CPI inflation rate was 7%. This means Unite’s recommended pay deal over the duration of the 2021 deal (April 1, 2021 to April 1, 2022) is 3.5% below inflation.

Unite representatives are busy apologizing on Arriva’s behalf, saying the company doesn’t have the money to fund a bigger pay rise. At the same time, they claim Unite won’t accept anything below 8.2% for 2022. That’s a fairy tale.

Does anyone think Arriva will change its tune in the 2022 salary negotiations? They’ll just pretend they can’t afford it, while giving millions more to the company’s executives and shareholders. And what will Unite’s response be? Representatives sought to reassure drivers yesterday, saying Unite’s bus ‘combination’ is preparing ‘London-wide action’ for 8.2%. In reality, Unite is running a series of separate wage negotiations across London, confirming the bus operators’ divide and conquer strategy.

The proposed sale deal to Arriva South confirms warnings from the London Bus Rank-and-File Committee. No reliance can be placed on Unite. Bus drivers can only fight escalating inflation and get a real pay rise if they take control of the dispute out of the hands of this pro-corporate union.

On Thursday, Unite representatives told angry drivers that if the strikes continued “there would be no exit ramp”. Unite uses the threat of industrial action to intimidate its own members instead of employers! They are counting on the financial difficulties caused by prolonged industrial action to wear down the opposition.

Last month, during the P&O ferry workers’ dispute, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham launched a ‘£10m combat fund’ meant to ‘defend our members against the worst excesses of bad bosses’. So why are Arriva drivers being kept on strike pay of just £70 a day? The only goal is to deprive them of work.

According to its financial accounts for 2020, Unite is sitting on annual dues of £161m. It has cash reserves of £119m and receives share payments of £2.4m a year. He handed over £683,702 in donations to the Labor Party and £101,168 in salary and benefits (less expenses) to its then general secretary, Len McCluskey. The £98million he lavished on a union ‘conference and leisure centre’ is currently the subject of a police investigation.

Members must demand that Unite immediately double their strike pay. This will allow drivers to reject Arriva’s below-inflation offer, while allowing them to pay their bills and keep a roof over their families’ heads.

Unite’s determination to implement a 3.5% below inflation settlement at Arriva South is not a local issue. Unite National Bus Officer Bobby Morton chaired the deal. In a statement released earlier today, he hailed an “improved offer”. It was the man James Rossi and his fellow Unite ‘activists’ had described as one of ‘Sharon’s generals’ who would bring about ‘change’.

Nationally, annual wage growth through February, excluding bonuses, was just 4%, less than half of RPI inflation over the same period, a measure of the role of unions in the abolition of wages.

Despite his verbal commitment to “workplace activism”, Graham and his officials control the dictates of big business and the London Stock Exchange. They are seeking to hold the line in a growing wave of pay disputes based on a de facto agreement between the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Bank of England (BoE) and the Johnson government. TUC Chair Frances O’Grady is one of 12 directors on the BoE board.

The London Bus Rank-and-File Committee is calling for a ‘no’ vote against Unite’s below-inflation pay deal, based on a struggle agenda outlined in last week’s statement, ‘Support Bus Drivers from Arriva South! For a London-wide strike to break Unite’s de facto wage freeze! Wednesday’s strike showed workers’ determination to fight on, a sentiment shared across London’s Underground and railways. By establishing grassroots committees in each garage and depot, drivers can plan a campaign to win.

On Wednesday evening (May 18), the London Bus Rank-and-File Committee is hosting a Zoom meeting to discuss the issues that have arisen in the Arriva London South pay dispute. We invite drivers wishing to attend to contact the committee at [email protected]