Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, other local MPs and local government leaders will attend a demonstration this Friday (28 January) in support of striking First Manchester bus drivers.

WHEN: Friday 28 January at 15:30

WHERE: First Manchester bus depot, Wallshaw Street, Oldham OL1 3 TR

Angela Rayner will be joined by local Oldham MP Jim McMahon, Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s shadow transport spokesperson Nav Mishra, MP for Stockport, Arooj Shah, leader of Oldham council, Cllr Vimal Choksi of Tameside council and other local councillors.

The 300 bus drivers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, have already taken six days of strike action in the dispute over low rates of pay. The dispute is set to intensify next week as the workers will be taking three days of strike action a week until the end of February.

Welcome support

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The support by Angela Rayner and local politicians is warmly welcome. They will have the opportunity to speak directly to drivers who can explain the effect that low pay is having on them and their families and how the cost of living crisis is making their lives ever more difficult.

 “Unite always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first and our drivers at First Manchester will receive the union’s unwavering support until this dispute is resolved.”

Fresh talks

Despite the planned escalation in strike action Unite remains committed to seeking a negotiated settlement to the dispute and fresh talks are scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday 27 January).

Although the company’s depot is located in Oldham it operates services across the Greater Manchester area. Since strike action began there has been severe disruption to the company’s services

The drivers have made it clear that they are no longer prepared to accept unacceptably low rates of pay for their highly demanding and responsible role. The workers currently receive a basic rate of £12.40 an hour. One of the major issues in the dispute is First Manchester’s refusal to honour the anniversary date (when a pay rise becomes due). The workers believe that any pay increase should be backdated to 1 August 2021.

Strikes last resort

Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said: “Our members are taking industrial action as a last resort due to the failure of First Manchester to make its bus drivers a fair offer.

“Unite has made it clear that if the company comes forward with an appropriate offer we will swiftly meet with them in order to seek to resolve this dispute.”

Huge profits

First Manchester is part of First Group which is the second largest bus operator in the UK. The company is extremely wealthy, it recorded an operating profit of £224.3 million in 2021 and it has accessible cash reserves of £776 million.

A recent UK wide survey of Unite bus activists has revealed that bus driver shortages are far higher than had previously been claimed and that 79 per cent said that vacancies at their depot had increased since the pandemic began. The most common explanation for drivers leaving was low rates of pay.


Notes to editors:

First Manchester bus drivers announce fresh strikes in pay dispute

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: [email protected]

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Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.