Bus drivers set to strike in Manchester

Manchester, England

BUS drivers in Bolton, Bury and Wigan are set to start a series of 24-hour strikes on Friday September 11, unions have revealed.

Subsequent walk-outs have been planned for Monday, September 14, and the following two Mondays.

Row

The union Unite has confirmed that a total of 833 First Bus workers, the majority of them drivers, will take part in the action in a row over annual pay rises.

It follows First Group’s imposition of a ‘zero per cent pay deal’, the union said. Unite accused First Bus of using the recession as ‘an excuse to freeze workers’ pay’ on the back of the company posting an annual profit of £134m.

Talks with conciliation service ACAS have failed to resolve the dispute but both parties will meet on Wednesday, September 9, for further talks. The strike is expected to disrupt hundreds of bus routes.

Exactly which routes will be hit have not been revealed. Unite’s industrial organiser Bobby Morton said: “This decision to impose a zero per cent pay deal is based on greed. First Group made millions of pounds in profit this year, despite the recession, yet are refusing to play fair by the employees who helped deliver these results.

“These workers are already struggling in the recession to support their families – they need support from their employer and this insulting pay offer is simply not acceptable.

“This dispute could be resolved if the company returns to the table with a reasonable pay offer.”

The strike action follows a resounding yes vote at the ballot box. Workers are expected to picket at depots in Bury, Bolton and Wigan. First said Greater Manchester’s entire bus services would not be affected. Drivers, the company said, were in ‘a far better position than many people are facing in a difficult economic climate’.

‘Disappointed’

A spokesman said: “We are hugely disappointed that our drivers at Bolton, Bury and Wigan depots have voted in favour of industrial action, creating a completely unnecessary situation where no one wins.

“All we have been asking is that our drivers earn the same this year as last year – no less – and that’s a far better position than many people are facing in a difficult economic climate.

“We have to be realistic about what we can deliver and funding a pay award for drivers in this environment is simply not possible.

“We will continue to do all we can to resolve this situation and the door remains open to discuss a way forward that will benefit our staff, our business and our customers.”

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