Tomorrow’s (Thursday 2 March) 24-hour strike by about 450 employees at the Oxford Bus Company lies at the door of hard line bosses who want to salami slice the pay and conditions of workers in one of the UK’s most expensive cities.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said that it appreciated the disruption that the strike will cause to the travelling public, but laid the blame at the door of the company’s managing director Phil Southall who wanted ‘to break the union’.
Unite said that it was available for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas ‘at any time any place’. A second 24-hour strike is planned for Monday (6 March).
The dispute centres on the failure of the company to enter into any meaningful talks on the annual pay award for the year starting 1 November 2016 and the failure to adequately compensate the whole workforce for Christmas/new year working.
The company, part of the highly profitable Go Ahead Group, gained unwelcome publicity in December, after ‘Scrooge’ bosses refused to pay drivers extra for working on two legally recognised bank holidays over the festive season which meant individual drivers lost £100-a-day.
The workers have voted by an overwhelming majority of 90 per cent to strike in this dispute tomorrow and on Monday.
Unite regional officer Marie Hall said: “This dispute is entirely of the company’s own making, as it has totally failed to engage in meaningful negotiations, instead it has adopted an aggressive stance to the workforce in what is a legitimate industrial dispute.
“We appreciate the disruption that this strike will cause, but the blame lies with Phil Southall, who behind the warm words, has a plan to salami slice our members’ pay and employment conditions. We suspect the hidden agenda here is to break the union.
“As the Oxford public knows only too well, the city is one of the most expensive places in the UK to live and bring up families. Unite is not prepared to stand by and see our members’ standard of living seriously eroded by this highly profitable company.
“The management has made no offer for the pay year which should have started in November and the options that it has proffered on Christmas/new year working are either inadequate or designed to be divisive with ‘winners and losers’.
“Because of the hard line tactics of the bosses, our members are reluctantly taking strike action in defence of their incomes in these economically challenging times.
“However, Unite’s door is always open for constructive talks under the good offices of Acas.”
To make matters worse, yesterday (Tuesday 28 February) the management tore up the trade union agreement it had with Unite, prompting the union to write to Oxford East MP Andrew Smith and MEP for South East England Anneliese Dodds, as well as the city council Labour group asking for support.
In the letter, Unite south east regional secretary Jennie Formby said this was ‘a direct attack on our trade union, on our elected representatives and on our members, as well as a significant abdication of responsibility on the part of what should be a reasonable employer to engage meaningfully in collective bargaining’.
Unite has nearly 450 members at the company, including drivers, maintenance staff and admin workers.
Notes to editors:
• The Go-Ahead Group PLC profit before tax increased by £21.1 million or 26.8 per cent from £78.7 million in the year to 26/06/2015 to £99.8 million in the year to 02/07/2016.
• The City of Oxford Motor Services Ltd profit before tax increased by £122,000 or 3.1 per cent from £3.96 million in the year to 28/06/2014 to £4.082 million in the year to 27/06/2015.
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.