First Capital bus drivers strike

September 10, 2008

The picket on 29 August 2008 of the bus depot on Marsh Lane, N17, by Northumberland Park station, was pretty solid for the first strike of bus drivers for many years. On approach, you could see the whole junction packed out with the yellow high visibility coats of the drivers and other workers – about 100 men and women, old and young, all determined to take a stand for better conditions of work. There were numerous placards and red flags in the breeze as well.

This was 9am and many had been there since very early, a considerable feat remembering a lack of men’s and women’s toilets.  Fortunately the weather was fine and what amounted to a mass picket had been left to its own devices by the police who had departed hours ago.

The picket line itself, nominally six but in fact with up to double that number, was 80 yards down Marsh Lane at the depot/garage itself. The main steward Joe had gone out to the other picket lines. News filtered back – no buses at all out from Dagenham and only five at Hackney. Here a maximum of 15 had got away by various devices, mainly driven by controllers.  Edwin and the picket had done their best and the number was under 10% of the total of 150 buses.  The 67s, 259s, etc, stayed parked nose to tail, in the depot.

A visitor to the picket was John Murphy, Potters Bar garage and on the national executive.  Accompanied by a colleague from the same garage, he went round the groups of strikers and spoke to many.   He greeted the picket warmly and chatted for some time then went back to the road junction and called everyone over for a mass meeting.

He said that although the First Capital were on their own this time and that this was a pay dispute, he saw a bigger picture: the union was anticipating further strikes involving other companies  until all the 28,000 bus workers in  London were involved  and the big profits being made were given back to the people who had created them.  He was loudly cheered at the end.

The next strike is due on 12 September, a 48-hour job.  Spirits were high in Marsh Lane and if the company was hoping the strike would put off the relatively new workforce, they would be disappointed.  This is a strike that can be won.


Adapted from a report in the Haringey Herald, newsletter of the Haringey Trade Union Council (c/o Unison Room, St Ann’s Hospital, St Ann’s Road, N15)

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