'Absolutely determined'

Strikes at Leeds bus maker Optare to continue into January as workers vow not to give in

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Strikes over pay at Leeds-based bus manufacturer Optare, now in their ninth week, will continue into January, Unite said today (December 14).

More than 100 Optare workers, whose hourly rates are significantly less than those of staff at comparable firms, voted 73 per cent in favour of strike action that began in October over the company’s ‘broken promise’ to provide a pay increase for 2019 and 2020.

Unite said the bus-maker, which is part of the Ashok Leyland group and a global leader in the design and manufacture of single and double decker buses, has failed to honour an August 2019 pledge to implement a pay rise by November of that year.

Further discontinuous strike action will begin at Optare’s Sherburn in Elmet factory on December 21 and will last until January 5, 2021.

In November, striking Optare workers were moved on by the police, prompting Unite legal action that forced the government to issue guidance to police forces that workers can undertake socially distanced picketing during lockdown, as it is covered by the exception on the right to go to work.

Unite regional officer Richard Bedford said, “Optare workers are absolutely determined to continue fighting for pay justice. They were promised a pay rise in August 2019 and still have not received one.

“Striking in the middle of winter, especially over the festive period and during a pandemic, is not something they want to do but have been forced to do,” he added. “Optare must now realise that their workforce will not give in and that a compromise must be found.

“This dispute can be brought quickly to an end if Optare returns to the negotiations with a reasonable offer that our members, who are paid below industry standards despite their hard work and loyalty, can accept.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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