The Weymouth bus dispute is set to enter into a sixth week, as Unite, the country’s largest union, waits to hear if the management will agree to meet with the conciliation service, Acas.
Unite said that the more than 110 drivers based at Weymouth and Bridport, employed by First Hampshire & Dorset Ltd, are due to strike for five days next week, starting on Monday (18 July), and for another five days the following week, ending on 1 August.
As the Dorset tourist season gets into full swing, Unite said the drivers were keen to get back to work to provide a first-class service, but they were not prepared to be the lowest paid First Group bus drivers in the whole of England.
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said: “I had a lengthy telephone discussion with the managing director Marc Reddy yesterday (Thursday 14 July). I have again offered to meet at their convenience and proposed we try again with an Acas conciliator present. I await their decision.
“The latest offer produced no improvement, just the same 2.3 per cent over two years that has been on the table for the last eight months. This is not acceptable given that our drivers in Weymouth and Bridport are the lowest paid in First Group across the whole of England
“The peak holiday period is a week away and I call on the company, which nationally chalked a profit of £52 million across its UK-wide bus division last month, to dig a little deeper into its pockets and address this very unfair wage disparity before the tourist season gets into full swing.
“Our drivers wish to return to providing the service that Weymouth expects and deserves. These latest rounds of industrial action are a last resort against a stubborn company intent on not paying a reasonable rate for the job.”
The union has made a plea for businesses to put pressure on the company 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.
The latest strikes start at 04:30 on 18 July 2016, ending at 04:29 on 19 July; at 04:30 on 20 July, ending at 04:29 on 21 July; and at 04:30 on 22 July, concluding at 04:29 on 25 July.
The following week, the strikes start at 04:30 on 25 July, ending at 04:29 on 26 July; at 04:30 on 27 July, ending at 04:29 on 28 July; and at 04:30 on 29 July, concluding at 04:29 hours on 1 August.
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.