More than 4,000 London bus drivers are to begin a series of strikes, in response to Metroline’s attempts to introduce ‘remote sign-on’. The labour movement must offer its solidarity, and fight for public ownership and control of the network.

More than 4,000 London bus drivers are to begin a series of strikes, in response to Metroline’s attempts to introduce ‘remote sign-on’. The labour movement must offer its solidarity, and fight for public ownership and control of the network.

Bus operator Metroline’s decision not to permanently drop its controversial ‘remote sign-on’ policy will lead to five days of strike action, as workers move to defend themselves.

This follows hot on the heels of bus drivers walking out of depots run by RATP.

Over the course of the pandemic, bus drivers have seen some of the highest infection and death rates. As a reward for the risks that workers have taken, the parasitical companies that run these franchises have seen fit to attack pay and conditions across the board.

Unite the Union has announced 48 hours of action by more than 4,000 bus drivers on 25-26 May. This will be followed by a 72-hour strike on 7-9 June. 96% of union members at Metroline West and 97% at Metroline Travel voted for strikes. 

Unite gave Metroline nearly three weeks’ warning to drop its policy, citing health and safety concerns regarding both union members and the public. “We are sorry for the disruption to the travelling public that 48-hour and 72-hour strikes will cause,” union officials stated. “However, we firmly believe that the health and safety of our members must be paramount.” 

Squeezed for profit

WorkersUnitedWillNeverBeDefeated‘Remote sign-on’ means that drivers do not report to a depot, but meet their bus at another location, such as a bus stop. The policy raises concerns over lack of amenities for workers, such as toilets and canteens; increased driving hours; and waiting for buses in unpredictable weather.

Unite has also said that there is no benefit to passengers, as ‘remote sign-on’ could well cause disruption to services used by those who rely on buses daily for work and school. The only reason for introducing this policy, then, is to try and boost the bosses’ profits. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has instructed Transport for London (TfL) management to introduce an immediate moratorium on the practice of remote sign-on. This will not be lifted until detailed research into this policy is completed.

But the labour movement should place no faith in supposedly ‘independent’ reviews, which more often side with the employers than not. 

It is clear that so long as these bus companies remain in private hands, attacks on workers will always be on the cards. Instead, Metroline’s franchises – along with the rest of the privately-run bus routes – should be brought fully under public ownership; properly integrated into TfL; and placed under the control of the workers that operate the services.