Fresh Manchester bus strikes

First Manchester bus drivers announce new strikes in pay dispute

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Bus drivers employed by First Manchester, have announced fresh strike action in the dispute over pay. The new dates for industrial action are a direct consequence of the company’s failure to make an improved offer to resolve the dispute.

The new days for strike action are Monday, January 31 and then the following dates in February 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 15, 17, 18, 21, 23 and 25. In effect the 300 plus drivers, who are members of Unite will be striking for three days a week next month.

There have already been three days of strike action in the dispute and further strikes dates have already been announced for 20, 24 and 26 of January.

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,” she added. “The union will be providing its full support to our members at First Manchester until this dispute is resolved.”

The drivers have made it clear that they will no longer accept low rates of pay for the highly skilled, demanding and responsible role they undertake. The drivers’ basic wage is £12.40 an hour. 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.

First Manchester is part of First Group which is the second largest bus operator in the UK. The company is extremely wealthy, it recorded an operating profit of £224.3 million in 2021 and it has accessible cash reserves of £776 million.

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.

“First Manchester can afford to make our members a fair pay offer but it has chosen not to. 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 the Greater Manchester area. Since strike action began there has been severe disruption to the company’s services.

There is an increasing shortage of bus drivers throughout the UK. A recent survey of Unite members revealed that 99 per cent of garages had shortages and that low pay was identified as the primary reason for workers leaving the profession.

By Barckley Sumner

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