Weymouth bus drivers, suffering from cancer and serious heart conditions, have been told by hard-hearted bosses that they will have their sick pay docked while the strikes over ‘poverty pay’ continue.
Unite, the country’s largest union, which represents the more than 110 drivers based at Weymouth and Bridport, employed by First Hampshire & Dorset Ltd, said the decision was illegal, and ‘flouted every canon of humanity and common decency’.
The company has said that company sick pay will be docked on the days that strikes happen, even if employees have been ‘signed off’ work by their GP.
Unite said that two of its members were suffering from cancer and two from serious heart conditions.
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said: “These are very serious life-threatening conditions – we are not talking about the odd day off for the common cold – and we are taking legal advice as we believe the management is acting illegally.
“What we are witnessing is almost unbelievable in the context of a legitimate industrial dispute in Britain in 2016 – it flouts every canon of humanity and common decency.”
The crackdown on cancer sufferers comes as it was revealed for the first time 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.
Bob Lanning added: “This is the economics of the madhouse. It would take just £48,000-a-year to settle and bring up the wages of our members – the lowest paid of all First Group drivers across England.
“The management is in its bunker and would prefer to adopt anti-union postures than settle with Unite for the benefit of the travelling public and our members.”
Unite has announced a further 23 days of strike action between 3 August and 4 September, which would take the dispute into its third month.
Yesterday (Tuesday 26 July) Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton met First Group’s managing director Giles Fearnley and regional director David Alexander at one of their thrice-yearly meetings – and the Weymouth dispute was raised.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “We had a full and frank discussion about the Weymouth dispute. Given that progress has been made in other company bus disputes in Glasgow and Leeds, I felt there was a window of opportunity to settle the Weymouth dispute.
“I am waiting for the company to get back to me on whether progress can be made in Weymouth.”
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.