Friday, 17 June 2011
Northern Bus Drivers Just Love The Olympics. Will Other Northerners Love Them Too?
Being a bus driver at next year's London Olympics, it was intimated, was that dream job, according to the spiel which was put out asking companies to pitch for contracts.
Feeling guilty that everything at the 2012 games was bound to be London-centric, attempts have been made to make it look like a UK-wide 'aren't we all lucky to be involved in this historic event' type of thing. Looking under the gloss and veneer, this was really just a way to develop and regenerate an unattractive part of London and using sport as a way of paying for the new housing which will undoubtedly follow in the years after 2012. I feel this because, if it had really been about sport for all, then the amount this folie de grandeur is costing, would easily have paid for a new all weather floodlit pitch, tennis or basketball court in practically every town and village in the UK, giving the whole country a shot in the arm and potential for future gold medals.
But, no. It was not to be.
Anyway, where was I before that rant?
Oh yes ... Olympic bus drivers ... dream jobs ...
Some North Eastern companies have won the contract to supply buses and drivers for the Olympic Park. This is good news. The rumours though are flying around the coach parks in the North. Drivers being paid £900 per week. Two drivers for each bus. A luxury liner being moored up the Thames for the drivers and other staff and volunteers to sleep. Accommodation is free. Accommodation is not free. As one of the sponsors is a fizzy drinks manufacturer, then any bus driver found drinking a rival brand will be liable for instant dismissal. On and on it goes.
£900 is the figure which is noticeable. That is a good wage for a North-Eastern bus driver. Probably three times the average. It is probably 1.5 times the average for a London bus driver. They will want their pound of flesh for that money and I suspect the shifts will be long, arduous and overrun the advertised time. But it is a once in a lifetime experience.
The alarm bells start ringing when you compare the bus drivers from Vancouver Winter Olympics last year to the proposed London drivers. In Vancouver, they seem to have been mostly volunteers (I would have applied if they had asked for volunteers. Naively, it seems to be more part of the Olympic spirit. I would have been fired too, for drinking some Chinese herbal jelly drink, too.) The large wage bill has already alerted the Unions and they have in many cases negotiated large wage increases or special payments for the Olympics. Following a deal securing a 10% increase over two years and a £500 one-off payment for 10,000 Network rail staff, the unions who represent the Underground and the Buses are lining up for similar deals. The British Olympic Association hit the headlines yesterday when they announced their wage bill had risen by 17%.
There is a danger that the costs of the Olympics could spiral out of control. We will be paying for this two weeks of great sport for decades. Poor old North of England won't have anything to show for it - except for some happy bus drivers.
Why am I such a pessimist?
Because people have such short memories. Remember the Athens Olympics in 2004? You only have to look at the state Greece is in now. Hosting the Olympics hasn't helped them.
Will we be the same?