A thousand bus workers in Leeds will strike continuously from next Tuesday (26 July), as the management refuses to talk in the long-running pay dispute and starts dismissing workers for union activities.
Unite, the largest union in the country, said today (Wednesday 20 July) that the bosses at First West Yorkshire had reneged on promised talks after the union suspended a strike, set for 11 July, as a goodwill gesture.
The union said that the management had taken an ‘extremely aggressive’ stance which had seen the Unite branch secretary and two other workers dismissed for legitimate trade union activity. A further 11 workers had been given final written warnings.
Unite called for the management to rescind the dismissals and written warnings – and stop ‘ducking and diving’ and hold constructive talks for the benefit of the Leeds travelling public and its members. The strike is due to start at 02.00 on Tuesday.
The Leeds strike is another example of industrial problems affecting First Group across the UK – there are currently bus disputes in Glasgow, Weymouth and issues affecting 4,000 other bus workers across Yorkshire.
Unite believes that, if the dots are joined up, there is an underlying theme of a hardline managerial stance against the respective workforces, despite First Group announcing last month a pre-tax profit rise of seven per cent to £114 million in worldwide profits.
Profits for the company’s UK bus division were a healthy £52 million, £11 million of which was generated by the Leeds operation.
The bus workers, based at the Bramley and Hunslet Park depots in Leeds, have already held two 24-hour strikes last month over the ‘insulting 38 pence an hour’ offer. The union points out that First Bus drivers in Halifax earn nearly £2 an hour more than their Leeds counterparts.
Unite regional officer Phil Bown said: “We suspended the strike we were going to hold on 11 July as a goodwill gesture, as the management had indicated it wished to talk.
“However, we waited and waited and nothing happened. It was only after we announced that we would be holding an all-out strike from next Tuesday that the company suggested talks on Monday.
“However, on the bosses’ past record, this could be another delaying tactic.
“The atmosphere has badly deteriorated as the management has started to attack our members for carrying out legitimate trade union activity. So far, three people, including the Unite branch secretary, have been dismissed and 11 others have been given final written warnings.
“We are calling for the immediate reinstatement of the dismissed colleagues and the rescinding of the final written warnings, otherwise these cases will end up before an employment tribunal.
“The management needs to stop ducking and diving and commit to holding genuine and meaningful talks, otherwise this strike could go on for some time with an adverse impact for bus users in Leeds – something we have desperately sought to avoid.
“If you join up the dots of the parent company, First Group, the local managements in Weymouth, Glasgow and other parts of Yorkshire are taking a strong anti-union line in misguided attempts to break our members’ spirit as they seek a decent wage for doing a decent job being employed by a highly profitable company.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.