Bus firms take legal action to avert strike

Three bus companies are seeking an injunction to halt Friday’s planned strikes as last-ditch talks to avert industrial action continue.

Up to 20,000 London bus drivers could go on strike in a row over pay during the Olympic Games, throwing the journey plans of commuters across the capital into chaos.

But Go Ahead, Arriva and Metroline have applied for a High Court order to prevent the planned strike.

Arriva spokesman Francis King told the BBC the legal action would focus on the legality of the union Unite’s ballot process. But he said that “negotiations were ongoing at this time”.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has offered £8.3m to stop strike action taking place and Unite has “cautiously welcomed” the offer.

Conciliation service Acas hosted talks between representatives of 21 bus operators on Thursday.

Peter Kavanagh, a Unite official, said: “The Olympic Delivery Authority has made £8.3m available for the bus workers. The mayor has instructed the bus companies to negotiate and we expect them to find the remaining money needed for a fair settlement.

“It is outrageous and irresponsible that the mayor and the bus operators have left it until the 11th hour to negotiate when we have been seeking an agreement for nine months.”

Unite has estimated the cost of providing a £500 bonus for every bus driver at £14m.

A spokesman for the ODA said: “Games-time transport operations need to be robust and represent the best way of providing staff and services.

“The ODA has always undertaken to meet TfL’s additional operational costs relating to the London 2012 Games.

“These costs are fully funded and will be met through our existing operational transport budget.”

The strike is due to begin at 3am on Friday morning if an agreement cannot be reached.

London’s bus drivers may well look on with envy at the bonus packages promised to other public transport employees for working through the Olympic Games.

Heathrow Express workers are set to claim a bonus of up to £700, while Docklands Light Railway employees can look forward to a £900 package. Network Rail workers will get £500, London Overground employees will see £600 and London Underground workers can expect at least £850, according to Unite.

 

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