Bus drivers in Weymouth and Bridport have been buoyed up by ‘phenomenal’ public support in their two-month industrial action against ‘poverty pay’.
Unite, the country’s largest union, also branded the claims of First Hampshire & Dorset management that the more than 110 drivers are refusing to accept arbitration as ‘absolute lies’.
The war of words hotted up as Unite announced today (Monday 8 August) that a further week of strike action would start at 04.30 on Monday 15 August and ending on 04.29 Monday 22 August. This follows on from the current strike action taking place this week.
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said: “It is absolute lies from the company that our members are refusing to go to arbitration – they would embrace such a process to solve the long-running ‘poverty pay’ dispute, but only if the conciliation talks were genuine.
“The sticking point is that the management wants any agreement to be binding, which negates the concept that such talks should be wide-ranging and any deal hammered out then being put to a vote of the drivers.
“I would like to thank the Dorset public for their unswerving support of the drivers. It has been truly phenomenal – our members could not have continued without that strong groundswell of support from the community in which they live.
“We have had many financial donations, including a retired person who gave £100 to the strike fund – that’s heart-warming.”
A fortnight ago, Unite exposed the fact the company, part of the highly profitable First Group, was docking company sick pay on strike days for cancer sufferers and those with serious heart conditions, even though they had been ‘signed off’ sick by their GP.
Unite has said that the pay dispute would cost just £48,000-a-year to settle, while the losses caused by the six week-old dispute is now £250,000 and could reach £500,000, if the industrial action continues for another six weeks.
Notes to editors:
Unite argues that First Group is a very profitable UK company that can afford to reward its Bristol drivers with a 13 per cent increase, but for its employees in Weymouth and Bridport the deal on the table is only 2.3 per cent over two years from August 2015.
The Weymouth and Bridport drivers earn about £18,300-a-year – or £8.80 an hour, while First Group drivers in Yeovil are on £9.50 per hour. Drivers working for rival firms in Bournemouth and Poole earn nearly £2 an hour more.
Nearly 90 per cent of the drivers voted in favour of strike action.
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.