First Manchester bus drivers to strike

First Group profits soar but drivers' pay is ‘worst in region’

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Around 360 bus drivers employed by First Manchester will strike in July over an “inadequate” pay offer, Unite said this week.

Drivers at First Manchester earn less than other bus companies in the area. First Manchester drivers earn £13.50 an hour, while Go North West pays £14.37, Diamond Bus £14.30 and Stagecoach £14. The difference in wages is expected to increase as the other companies implement their yearly pay increases.

First Manchester drivers say that without a significant pay rise, chronic staff shortages and overwork will worsen at the company. The workers have rejected a 7.4 per cent pay offer backdated to April with a further 3.4 per cent in October.

First Groups’ 2022 annual report, released earlier this month, shows that operating profits increased by more than £6 million to £226.8 million.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “First Manchester’s profits continue to soar but the rates it pays its drivers are the worst in the region. The company’s inadequate pay offer is not enough to make up for sky high living costs or to plug the staff shortages that are making our members’ working lives a misery.

“Unite defends our members’ jobs, pay and conditions to the hilt and First Manchester’s drivers will receive all the support they need as they strike for a fair pay rise.”

The drivers voted in favour of industrial action by 96 per cent with a turnout of 75 per cent. Strikes affecting First Manchester services in Rochdale, Oldham, Manchester and Ashton will take place on 3, 4, 7, 10, 11 and 13 July. More strike action will be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.

Unite regional officer Colin Hayden added, “Our members do not want to strike but they have been left with no option due First Manchester’s greed. There is still time to avoid industrial action but for that to happen the company must put forward an offer our members will accept.”

By Ryan Fletcher