First profits soar to £227m while drivers suffer low pay, excessive hours, abuse, lack of toilets 

A shocking survey of nearly 200 striking First Manchester drivers has reaffirmed why they are taking industrial action over pay, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Saturday)

Over two thirds (67 per cent) of the 184 drivers surveyed said they have been verbally abused in the last two years, with 16 per cent being physically assaulted as well. Nearly a quarter said they never have adequate access to a toilet, while 22 per cent said they do ‘some of the time’ and 52 per cent said ‘occasionally’. 

During the last year, 61 per cent have cut back on essentials, such as food and heating, 20 per cent have missed mortgage or rent payments, 15 per cent have skipped meals and four per cent have used foodbanks. 

Around a third (31 per cent) work between 40 and 50 hours a week, while 14 per cent work over 50 hours. Working long hours has impacted the drivers’ physical health (30 per cent), mental health (30 per cent) and relationships and family life (36 per cent). 

Over four fifths (81 per cent) report feeling very tired, with 74 per cent having made errors while driving as a result. A fifth of drivers have had to stop driving because of excessive tiredness.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members work hard for First and take pride driving the vast amount of the travelling public to their destinations. But as this survey shows, with abuse all too common, it is not a job for the faint-hearted and they should be paid properly. First made operating profits of nearly £227 million in 2022, it can afford to put forward the pay deal its drivers are asking for and quite rightly deserve.”

First Group’s 2022 annual report shows that operating profits increased by more than £6 million to £226.8 million. 

First Manchester, which pays drivers a pound an hour less than the region’s other bus operators, has offered a three-part deal. The split would see a rise backdated from April, with another implemented from October and a final one in January. 

The drivers have been clear that they expect any pay deal to be implemented fully from April.

Around 360 First Manchester drivers have been taking strike action since the beginning of July.

Unite regional officer Colin Hayden said: “Our members do a tough job for First and deserve a fair pay rise. The company is responsible for the disruption being caused to passengers because it is refusing to put forward a reasonable offer despite its massive profits. First needs to come back to the negotiating table with a deal our members will accept.”


For media enquires ONLY contact senior Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215 or 020 3371 2065

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.