STRIKING Hounslow bus drivers say they have been getting good support from commuters this morning.
The Chronicle was at Hounslow Bus Station, in London Road, early this morning where a group of drivers had formed a picket line.
A number of buses were standing idle on the forecourt, but the mood from both protesters and the public was generally positive.
One driver who asked not to be named said: “The people in cars are all sounding their horns and waving out the window as the drive past us. People on their way to the stations are stopping to chat and tell us they understand why we are doing this.
“It’s not how London should be so close to the Olympics, but a lot of people are going to do very well out of the games and we don’t see why we shouldn’t get a share too.”
Barry Frost, 45, of Isleworth, normally takes a bus to work but wasn’t bothered by the industrial action.
He said: “I’m glad it’s happening on a Friday, it’s my least hectic day and I could even work from home if I really wanted to. I don’t know enough about the background to all this, but if what I’ve heard is correct and the bus companies are not playing fair then I understand why the drivers are upset. It’s the sort of thing you hope is sorted very quickly, people’s sympathy tends to fade the longer strikes go on.”
Other forms of transport seemed to be coping very well with the added demand.
Local roads were moving as normal, while tube stations including Hounslow East, Osterley and Boston Manor appeared to be experiencing their usual amount of passengers.
As predicted by Transport for London, there were also a number of bus drivers not taking part in the strike action.
The 237 from White City to Hounslow Heath operated by Metroline, one of three companies to obtain an injunction forbidding strike action, appeared to have increased the number of services to ease the pressure on routes which were out of action.
However, there were also a number of 110 buses from West Middlesex Hospital to Twickenham operated by London United - which according to TfL should not have been in operation.
The Unite union which represents the striking drivers claimed 17 companies and 70 garages were affected.
It added the injunction obtained in court by three of the companies was an ‘affront to democracy’ and said the action was necessary as bosses had refused to negotiate a fair settlement with staff who will work during the London Olympics.
Unite’s regional secretary for London said, Peter Kavanagh said: “The bus operators have posted billions in profits but they are refusing to enter into genuine and timely negotiations with Unite despite being ordered to by the mayor of London. Together the bus companies, TfL and the Olympic Delivery Authority can end this dispute at a stroke.
“The Olympic Delivery Authority has made money available but now it is up to the bus companies and TfL to step up and play their part. Despite the huge profits bus operators have given their workers three years of below inflation pay increases or pay freezes.
“If the operators shirk their responsibilities now they will sow the seeds of massive anger and frustration across the bus network inevitably leading to strife and industrial action during and way beyond the Olympic Games.”
Peter Hendy, London’s Transport Commissioner, condemned the strike and said: “It is now clear that the leadership of Unite were intent on a strike all along. They have pursued this unnecessary course of action despite an extra £8.3m being brokered by the Mayor that would allow every bus driver in London in a garage where one or more routes were affected by the 2012 Games to gain, over the 29 days of the competitions, about £500.
“Despite additional offers to supplement this from the bus companies the Unite leadership have refused to defer the strike to give time for further negotiations or for any of the offers to be put to their members. I’m sorry that Londoners are therefore going to be disrupted today.”
For all latest information visit www.tfl.gov.uk/buses