Bus drivers to go on strike for two days, hitting services in Derbyshire

Drivers are to go on strike at the end of June
Drivers are to go on strike at the end of June

Bus drivers are to go on strike for two days over an ‘insulting’ pay freeze offer.

The two days of action by First South Yorkshire drivers will impact on services on Saturday June 29 and Monday 1 July – with drivers walking out for 24 hours on both days, hitting services in the Derbyshire Dales, as well as Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham and across South Yorkshire.

A total of 900 drivers are involved after rejecting the ‘insulting’offer of a one year pay freeze, the drivers’ union Unite has said.

Workers voted by 69 per cent for strike action and by 79 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.

The strike will mean that services run by the company in Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham, as well as part of the Derbyshire Dales, will ‘grind to halt’, according to Unite.

Unite regional officer Phil Bown said: “Our members have voted overwhelmingly to strike as they are not going to put up with the insulting offer of a one year pay freeze for the year starting May 2019, especially as the parent company First Group is highly profitable.

“First South Yorkshire is playing fast-and-loose with its financial figures – an accountancy sleight of hand. However, the key fact is that First Group made £65 million in profits from its UK bus division for the year ending 31 March 2019. This is a cash-rich organisation.

“Stagecoach, which operates similar services in the Sheffield area, is profitable and has offered its staff 4.7 per cent over 18 months. Why can’t First South Yorkshire make a similar offer?

“If First Group is serious about preventing industrial action, which will unfortunately lead to severe disruption for the travelling public, it urgently needs to hold constructive pay talks.”

Garry Birmingham, Managing Director of First South Yorkshire said: “We are disappointed that First South Yorkshire drivers have voted for strike action and we are extremely disappointed that despite a meeting being previously arranged by Unite to discuss this with us, Unite have today chosen to serve notice of strike action across South Yorkshire on 29 June and 1 July.

“We would like to share with the general public and our customers why we are unable to increase the wages of our drivers this year and what offer has been presented to the union for consideration.

“Firstly, we’d like to thank the 614 drivers who did not vote for strike action, as we appreciate their support.

“This figure is nearly 60% of our drivers and therefore under half of drivers are in favour of strike action, which isn’t representative of the majority of our drivers.

“We’d urge Unite to consider the impact that the strike action will have on the 614 drivers who did not vote in favour of strike action, as well as the impact this will have on the non-driving work force and for our customers.

“Any strike action would cause significant disruption for our customers and only place the business in an even more difficult financial position.

“Our drivers do a great job and the business has agreed a good wage and lucrative terms and conditions over the last few years.

“We have offered to freeze wages and terms and conditions for one year. Our weekly bus driver wage is £449, annual salary of £23,358, which is £11.23 an hour and in addition they receive six weeks holiday and bank holidays.

“We know that we pay significantly better than other bus operators in the area as our rate of pay is between 8% to 36% higher and that we offer better terms and conditions, for example we provide up to 10 days more holiday a year than other bus operators, so our drivers are already receiving the best offer available.

“We’ve engaged with the Union on several occasions and have made our financial position clear.

“If we were to increase driver wages, then we would need to review the level of bus services we offer, as well as bus fares, which could result in an increase for customers, which is something we do not want to do.

“In April we announced that we had frozen the price of our best-selling products, which includes FirstDay and FirstWeek, when purchased in advance of boarding the bus. This means that our mobile fares are still the same, or cheaper, than what we were charging in 2007, over 12 years ago.

“We’d like to urge Unite to reconsider strike action and to reconsider the position we have presented. If strike action does go ahead then we will aim to ensure that it has minimal impact to our bus services.”