Manchester braced for bus chaos

First Manchester bus drivers balloting for strike action after 'deplorable' pay offer

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Around 360 bus drivers employed by First Manchester are balloting for strike action over pay, Unite said on Thursday (June 6).

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 today, shows that operating profits increased by more than £6 million to £226.8 million.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “First Manchester pays it workers the worst rates in the region, yet profits continue to soar. Not only are the drivers struggling with rising living costs, the low wages paid by First Manchester are causing staffing shortages its workers are bearing the brunt of. It’s deplorable.

“Unite’s laser like focus on defending and bettering our members’ jobs, pay and conditions means First Manchester’s drivers will receive their union’s full and unwavering support.”

The ballot for strike action closes on 13 June. Strike action would impact First Manchester services in Rochdale, Oldham, Manchester and Ashton.

Unite regional officer Colin Hayden added, “This dispute can be brought to an end quickly, but that depends on First Manchester putting forward an offer that meets the workers’ expectations. It can clearly afford to. Our members don’t want to strike and any disruption caused will be entirely First Manchester’s fault for putting greed over the interests of the travelling public.”

In Leeds around 800 First West Yorkshire bus drivers will begin strike action every day from 18 June over the company’s refusal to return the date on which new pay rises are enacted back to normal.

By Ryan Fletcher