The Weymouth bus company that is digging its heels in over ‘poverty pay’ for its drivers was accused of engaging in ‘PR stunts’ with no intention of negotiating seriously, after talks lasting more than seven hours broke down yesterday (Thursday 7 July).
More than 110 drivers based at Weymouth and Bridport have been striking for four days this week in the eight month dispute over ‘poverty pay’, which sees them being paid less than any other First Bus drivers in the whole of England. Three more days of strike action are set for next week, the fourth week running.
Yesterday, Unite, the country’s largest union, and the management of First Hampshire & Dorset Ltd met in Dorchester for seven-and-a-half hours of talks.
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said: “Unfortunately, these talks proved fruitless as it soon became apparent that the management was engaged in a PR exercise and had no intention of negotiating in an adult fashion.
“Their opening spiel was that as our members had been on strike it was First Bus policy to make a reduced offer to our members, who are the lowest paid First Bus drivers in the whole of England. This was insulting.
“The management has been pleading poverty, even though last month First Group announced a £52 million profit for its UK-wide bus division.
“A company finance manager was present yesterday and we asked to see the figures to back up the claim that First Hampshire & Dorset is in dire financial straits.
“Despite having a computer, the finance manager was unable to access this information. Without sharing this information, we can’t really move forward with productive talks.
“This was a unsubtle PR stunt designed to put Unite in a bad light – it was not a genuine attempt to solve this eight month old dispute that is beginning to hit the tourism trade in Weymouth and Bridport.”
Earlier this week, the union made a plea for businesses to put pressure on to limit the damage to the tourism industry which injects more than £230 million-a-year into the Weymouth and Bridport economies, as well as supporting 6,300 jobs directly.
Next week’s strikes will run from 04:30 on Wednesday 13 July, ending at 04:29 hours on Thursday 14 July; starting at 04:30 on Friday 15 July, ending 04:29 hours on Saturday 16 July; and from 04:30 hours on Sunday 17 July, concluding 04:29 hours on Monday 18 July.
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.
Notes to editors:
According to research by The South West Research Company, there was a total visitor related spend of £183,290,000 in Weymouth in 2013, supporting 5,000 jobs. In Bridport and West Bay, the total visitor related spend was £56,691,000 in 2013, supporting 1,300 jobs.
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.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.