14 November 2006
Why a London bus strike and why now?
Brian Micklethwait

Why a London bus strike and why now?

There is a bus strike raging in London today:

Some 60 bus routes serving north, central and west London and parts of Hertfordshire have been affected.

The Transport and General Workers’ Union wants a 6% wage increase in line with similar pay offers from other London bus operators.

Why?  Why is this happening?  And why now, all of a sudden?  Apparently this is the first strike in London for seven years, a fact which the BBC omits.  The BBC omits also that Metroline, the employer in this ruckus, is Singaporean.  It’s like, the BBC doesn’t want this to mean anything.

I think strikes are like wars, in that they happen because each side thinks it will win.  They can’t both be right, and something is making them disagree.  Some uncertainty.

The usual uncertainty I reach for to explain strikes is politics.  The politicians could pay more for their beloved buses than they are paying, so the TGWU reckons that Metroline could extort more from the politicians than they are extorting, and that Metroline could pay the bus drivers more.  The politicians have presumably assured Metroline that there is no more money to be had, and Metroline either does believe this, or hopes that the TGWU will believe it, and that they can pocket any differences that they can extract.

So, guess.  The buses have now all been paid for.  The system is now in place, and seemingly working well.  Mr Livingstone’s career is riding on them.  Ergo, say the busmen, now we can demand more money to drive them.  What will Livingstone do?  Shut all the buses up in their garages until the busmen crawl back to work?  Maybe Metroline thinks that will happen.  The busmen don’t believe that Livingstone and Metroline will hold to such a position.  What are they?  Rupert Murdoch?  Why not just put up the council tax?  Or just, you know, slap it on the tube fares or something?

But that could just be me being anti-political.  It may just be that the TGWU reckons its workers are pissed off with these damned Singaporeans and would rather work some other place than take a mere 4%.

Wars are about the will to fight as well as about mere resources.  Sorry, this is getting too profound.

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