Industrial action planned by bus drivers

Nearly half of drivers and services on First Greater Manchester’s bus network will be out of action on Tuesday if a planned strike by Unite members over conditions and bargaining powers goes ahead.

Two depots will be affected, one in Oldham and the other in Queens Road, North Manchester. The industrial action will affect about 45 out of 100 services on the operator’s network.

Discussions between First’s management and the union Unite are ongoing but if a resolution is not reached, services in Oldham, Salford, Rochdale and Middleton and parts of North Manchester will be affected.

Howard Hartley, Transport for Greater Manchester’s head of bus, said: “While we hope that discussions will reach a resolution, we advise passengers to start planning ahead and make alternative travel arrangements in the event of industrial action on Tuesday.”

Unite, which represents over 700 members working out of the Oldham and Queens Road depots, accused the company of not honouring the collective bargaining agreement they entered into with workers and breaching the 2012 pay agreement. The union’s members voted overwhelmingly for strike action after the company pushed through changes to conditions without negotiation in breach of the agreements.

Unite said attempts to resolve the dispute collapsed when First failed to live up to its commitments, despite talks taking place over a year ago under the auspices of Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s walk out, Unite regional officer Neil Clarke said: “It is with a heavy heart that our members have been left with no option but to strike. We regret any inconvenience and disruption caused to passengers, but they cannot and will not sit by and let their hard fought for agreements be trashed.

“All the issues in this dispute could easily be resolved by the senior management and at no financial cost to the business. This is not a question of ability, but of a willingness to honour commitments and agreements that the company have signed up to.

“The conduct of the management team is in stark contrast to the so-called ‘people values’ rhetoric that it espouses and incorporates into the company’s ‘vison and values’ publications.

“The message to the management is plain and simple: the agreements and procedures that all have signed up to must be honoured, adhered to and viewed as binding and not discretionary.

“Unite has acted with integrity and honour throughout and management must do likewise, starting with the reversal of the existing breaches and the re-instatement of provisions that existed prior to the breaches occurring.”

Acas offered to meet with First and Unite on Tuesday but the offer was rejected, according to First.

TfGM’s Hartley added: “We have worked with First and other operators to ensure that dedicated school services, which are supported by TfGM, are able to run as a matter of priority.

“Anyone whose journey could be affected should check before travelling on Tuesday to find out the latest information.”

If industrial action goes ahead, the free city centre Metroshuttle services will not run on Tuesday 24 May.

Information will be posted at bus stops in affected areas and additional staff will be on hand at key interchanges to advise passengers.

  • For a list of services affected please visit the news section at www.firstgroup.com/greater-manchester. Follow @FirstManchester and @OfficialTfGM on Twitter, or call First on 0161 627 2929. For journey planning advice call Transport for Greater Manchester on 0161 244 1000. (7am-8pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am-8pm at weekends and bank holidays).

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