The Weymouth bus driver ‘poverty pay’ dispute could continue to Christmas, after company bosses demanded ‘draconian’ conditions be imposed before arbitration talks could start.
More than 110 bus drivers in Weymouth and Bridport, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, voted overwhelmingly to reject the pre-conditions demanded by First Hampshire & Dorset Ltd, as they would have ‘hobbled’ the talks - under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas - before they had even began.
The drivers are on strike this week, ending at 23.59 on Sunday 11 September. This will see the end of the 12-week mandate for industrial action - the strikes started in mid-June.
However, the drivers have voted for a further industrial action ballot to be held which, depending on the result, could mean a further 12 weeks of strike action running over the Christmas/New Year period.
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said: “Our members voted overwhelmingly to withdraw from the Acas talks because of the draconian conditions that the management tried to impose before the talks had even began.
“The talks about poverty pay would have been hobbled before they had started.
“It is Unite’s long-standing view that any deal hammered out at the proposed arbitration talks should be put to a vote of the members, which is normal employment practice.
“The company wanted the talks to be legally binding, which would have meant that our members would not have a vote on any deal that had been hammered out in their name. That’s not fair.
“The company also wanted a clause saying there could be no industrial action for three months following the arbitration talks. This could have meant that company sacking the drivers – and they could not take any action to protect their jobs. Again, that’s not fair.
“We now have several weeks before the result of the next industrial action ballot is known, which could see strikes continuing into the Christmas period.
“We would urge management to use this interval to negotiate a fair settlement and end this misery that the company by its anti-union actions is inflicting on the travelling public.”
Unite has said that the pay dispute would cost just £48,000-a-year to settle, while the losses caused by the three month-old dispute are now more than £250,000 and are set to reach £500,000, if the dispute continues into the autumn.
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.