Commuters in Greater Manchester have been warned to expect severe disruption to bus services from today (January 10) as bus drivers employed by First Manchester begin strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.
The strike on Monday and Tuesday (January 11) will go ahead after last minute peace talks held today on Friday failed to make progress.
The 300 plus drivers who are members of Unite recorded a 99 per cent vote in favour of strike action. Several rounds of negotiations have been held but broke down as First Manchester failed to make an offer which met workers’ expectations.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Our members have been hailed as heroes for working throughout pandemic but that praise feels decidedly hollow when First Manchester is refusing to make our members a reasonable pay offer.
“Unite is the union which always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and our bus drivers at First Manchester will be receiving the union’s unstinting support until this dispute is resolved,” she added.
A key sticking point is the company’s refusal to backdate any pay increase to August 2021; the anniversary date for when the annual pay increase was due. The workers have made it clear that they will no longer accept low pay, with the drivers currently only earning £12.40 an hour for a highly skilled and responsible role.
First Manchester’s depot is in Oldham but it operates services throughout Greater Manchester. The strike will result in disruption to bus services throughout the entire city region.
If no resolution is reached in the dispute, further strikes are scheduled for January 18, 20, 24, 26.
Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said, “Our members are taking strike action as a last resort. Despite numerous meetings, First Manchester’s management has either failed to understand or ignored our members’ aspirations.
“The ball is now firmly in First Manchester’s court. Unite remains available for further negotiations in order to resolve this dispute but the company needs to be willing to bring forward an improved offer,” he
There will be a Unite picket line in place at the First Manchester bus depot at Walshaw Street, Oldham, OL1 3TR, during the strike.
By Barckley Sumner