BUS drivers employed by First Manchester have announced fresh strike action in January and February in the dispute over pay.
The days planned for industrial action are January 20, 24 and 26 and February 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 15, 17, 18, 21, 23 and 25. There have already been three days of strike action in January (10, 11 and 18).
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Bus drivers, including those at First Manchester, are no longer prepared to accept low rates of pay, for the difficult and stressful work they undertake.
“Unite now does exactly what it says on the trade union tin: it always fights to defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.
“The union will be providing its full support to our members at First Manchester until this dispute is resolved.”
The drivers’ basic wage is £12.40 an hour. Unite says a major sticking point in the dispute is First Manchester’s refusal to honour the anniversary date of 1 August (when the pay increase for 2021 was due to come into effect) and to backdate the pay increase from this date.
Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said: “Strike action has already caused considerable disruption for bus passengers throughout Greater Manchester.
“This was directly a result of First Manchester’s refusal to make an offer which meets our members’ expectations.
“Further strikes can be avoided but it requires the company to put forward an improved offer and to return to the negotiating table.”
The company’s depot is in Oldham but it operates services across Greater Manchester.
Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester, said: “Despite further talks and the efforts we have already made to meet what we were told were agreed demands, union officials have informed us the strikes will go ahead.
“The company has offered a substantial increase to £13 per hour, along with a lump sum payment.
“We have also offered to equalise the rate for school bus drivers with that for service bus drivers which would mean an even greater increase for this group of colleagues.
“I would like to apologise sincerely to all our customers in advance for the disruption and inconvenience this action will cause but want them to be aware of the situation so they can make plans for journeys they have to make on these days.
“Industrial action has huge impact on the community and damages confidence in using the bus, so I urge union representatives to reconsider their action and continue talking with us to resolve this dispute.”