Striking UK bus drivers, gas workers exchange solidarity

By Jonathan Silberman
March 15, 2021

LONDON — Striking bus drivers mounted a lively picket at London’s Park Royal depot here Feb. 22-24. They are fighting wage cuts of up to 2,500 pounds ($3,500) a year and longer shifts. Some 2,000 drivers took strike action. They’re members of Unite union at three companies, London United, Sovereign and Quality Line. 

“They’re taking advantage of the pandemic,” picket supervisor Rupert Buchanan told Andrés Mendoza, Communist League candidate for London mayor, who visited the picket Feb. 24. 

“This is happening in different workplaces across the country,” Mendoza replied. “On Friday, I shall be taking solidarity to striking gas engineers in Sidcup, Kent. They face cuts to wages and conditions, as well as being sacked if they don’t sign up to worse contracts.” On hearing this, Buchanan wrote out a solidarity message for Mendoza to take to the gas workers, and organized for all the pickets to sign it.

Getting out the truth and building solidarity with struggles of working people is one of the centerpieces of the Communist League’s campaign, Mendoza said.

Gas workers fight wage cuts

“That’s brilliant,” responded Darren Chambers, GMB gas engineers union rep, when Mendoza delivered the message two days later. 

“We’ll get it around. We’ve had tremendous support to our strike fund from GMB ambulance service branches and from the RMT rail union.” Chambers and George McDonald, another union rep, organized a message for Mendoza to take back to the drivers when they next take strike action. Signed by 20 pickets it reads: “We have to stand united, stand strong and stand proud together. We will win.”

McDonald was one of five pickets to sign up for a Militant  subscription on the two picket lines this week, and was among a larger number of strikers to take Communist League campaign material. He asked Mendoza about the “yellow vest” protests that swept France in 2018 against the impact of the capitalist crisis on working people and the disdain of the government of President Emmanuel Macron. “That seemed strong,” he said. 

“It was important because ‘yellow vests’ were workers and small proprietors in the countryside,” Mendoza said. “Working people of town and country are all exploited. We have to unite in struggle along the road to establishing a workers and farmers government.” 

Alawia Ahmed, who had been a veteran of union organizing and fights in Sudan, joined Mendoza visiting the gas workers’ picket line. 

“Your solidarity is a big boost to our morale,” George McDonald told her. 

The government and “many employers are looking at our fight to see who comes out on top, the company or the union,” picket Natalie Foster told Ahmed and Mendoza.