London bus drivers latest UK workers to strike over pay

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Bus drivers in London are set to strike over pay for two days this weekend, their union announced on Wednesday, as decades-high inflation prompts walkouts across Britain’s ailing economy.

Around 1,600 drivers from the London United bus company will stage the stoppage on Sunday and Monday over the traditional end-of-summer long weekend, the union Unite said.

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The strike, which will affect only a portion of London’s famous red buses, could hinder people trying to reach the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which will take place on both days and typically draws up to two million people.

Unite accused French company RATP, which owns London United, of offering the drivers a “real terms pay cut” in negotiations over pay.

It said the firm was offering an increase of 3.6 percent for 2022 and 4.2 percent in 2023, despite Britain’s inflation rate reaching double figures last month for the first time since 1982.

“It (RATP) can fully afford to pay its workers a decent pay increase, but it is refusing to do so,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said.

A spokesperson for RATP said it remained “committed to resolving the dispute as soon as possible and we urge Unite to reconsider our invitation to return to the negotiating table.”

The stoppage is the latest by public and private sector workers in the UK, as the spiraling cost of living has led employees to seek salary hikes to keep up with their surging bills.

London Underground and national railway staff have held a series of walkouts in recent months, while the unrest has hit numerous other industries and sectors.

They range from dock workers at Felixstowe – the country’s biggest container port – and refuse collectors in Scotland, to criminal lawyers across England and Wales.

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