Bus drivers in Weymouth and Bridport would embrace the arbitration process to solve the long-running ‘poverty pay’ dispute with ‘open arms’ – but only if the conciliation talks are genuine.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said the sticking point was that the management wanted any agreement to be binding, which negated the concept that such talks should be wide-ranging and any deal hammered out then being put to a vote of the drivers.
Unite said that First Hampshire & Dorset Ltd had shown ‘continual bad faith’ and that before the industrial action started in mid-June, the union had suggested 2.3 per cent backdated to August 2015 and an arbitrator to set the next two pay awards for 2016 and 2017 – but this was rejected by the management.
Unite said that there would be a week-long strike from 04.30 on Monday (8 August) and ending at 04.29 on Monday 15 August. The previously announced 23 days of strike action running through August and into early September had been suspended because of a legal technicality.
Last week, 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 regional officer Bob Lanning said: “Unite has never been against talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas. We welcome such genuine talks with open arms.
“The sticking point is that whatever deal we could come up with would not be automatically binding on our members, as demanded by management, but would have to be put to the ballot of our more than 110 drivers. This is the way that industrial democracy should work.
“However, the management has continually behaved in bad faith and with a bullying attitude – and it has refused to recognise that their drivers are the lowest paid of all First Group drivers in England. It is not unreasonable that Unite, as a trade union, would wish to rectify this glaring inequality.”
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 are now £250,000 and could reach £500,000, if the industrial action continues for another six weeks.
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:
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.