First West Yorkshire bus drivers balloted for strike action

Call for West Yorkshire bus company to restore drivers’ terms and conditions, as passenger numbers rise to ‘near normal’ levels

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The travelling public in West Yorkshire would greatly benefit with the restoration of a full pre-Covid-19 bus schedules’ agreement and normal timetables, Unite said today (November 16).

Nearly 400 bus drivers in Bradford, employed by First West Yorkshire, will be balloted for strike action from Monday, November 23 in a dispute over the company’s refusal to restore the bus schedule to pre-pandemic levels as, the union says, traffic and passenger movements have returned to ‘near normal-  but members are still working on ‘lock down’ conditions.

Unite said that it hoped that the company’s reluctance to restore the full terms and conditions and timetable, unlike other operators in West Yorkshire, was not down to ‘old fashioned penny-pinching’ and called for immediate and constructive talks.

Unite said that its 389 members at the Bowling Back Lane site were under a great deal of stress as they are made to work long shifts, covering for absent colleagues.  Retention and recruitment problems, the restoration of the normal terms and conditions, and timetable would require a new look at workforce requirements.

Unite deputy regional secretary Tas Sangha, “As passenger numbers rise to almost pre-Covid levels, the company needs to restore the agreements for First in Bradford. We hope that its reluctance to do so is not down to old fashioned-penny pinching.

“As more and more people return to their place of work, you will need more buses on the road to enable proper social distancing for passengers and we want to avoid a situation where queues of bus users are lined up in the cold weather waiting for a reduced number of buses to appear,” he added.

“Our members, classed as essential workers, have been under a lot of stress covering for sick and absent colleagues during the pandemic, so we believe that the swift restoration of a full service will reduce health & safety risks for drivers and passengers,” Sangha went on to say. “There also needs to be an analysis of workforce requirements during the winter months.

“Our members are reluctant to take strike action during the continuing national emergency, but feel they have been pushed to the limit over a long period of time and that First management has failed to grasp the big picture.

“We would like to hold urgent talks to resolve this issue as soon as possible and avert the need for industrial action.”

The ballot closes on Monday, December 7.

By Shaun Noble

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