Manchester tram drivers to vote on strike action over ‘derisory’ pay offer

Manchester could grind to a halt next month if members of Unite the Union employed by Metrolink vote for strike action in a dispute over pay.

The tram drivers, who have continued to operate throughout the pandemic to ensure Greater Manchester kept functioning, have been offered a pay increase of 0.3 per cent for January-March 2020, followed by 0.7 per cent from April 2021 to April 2021.

The one per cent increase for a 15 month period has been labelled “derisory” and would amount to a hefty real terms pay cut for workers, said the union.

Unite has been in pay talks with Metrolink since February and, with negotiations now exhausted, the union said it has no option but to begin balloting for strike action.

The strike ballot opens on Thursday, August 26, and closes on Friday, September 10. If workers vote for strike action then strikes could begin before the end of next month.

The union represents more than 300 drivers and supervisors at Metrolink and says industrial action would cripple the tram service, which has stations throughout Greater Manchester.

It is possible that strike action could affect the Manchester half marathon as well as several high profile football matches due to take place this autumn.

Unite regional officer, Dave Roberts, said: “Unite has had no option but to ballot its members for strike action after Metrolink refused to make an acceptable pay offer despite six months of talks.

“Our members have gone beyond the call of duty to continue to operate throughout the pandemic and to be offered a derisory pay offer, a deep pay cut in real terms, is deplorable.

“If workers vote for strike action then Greater Manchester will effectively grind to a halt, affecting both commuters and those hoping to attend sport and leisure events.

“Our workers are reluctantly balloting for industrial action as a last resort, but Metrolink could still avoid strike action occurring by returning to negotiations and tabling a realistic pay offer.”

Rob Cox, director of service delivery for the operator, KeolisAmey Metrolink, said: “Our drivers have worked extremely hard throughout the pandemic and provided vital services for key workers during uncertain times.

“Now, our focus must shift to supporting the recovery of Metrolink as we emerge from the pandemic. The Metrolink service is funded by the general public and we have a duty to make sure that the cost of operating the network does not become unaffordable.

“Whilst Unite are disappointed with our offer, we believe that it is a fair proposal which gives certainty to our drivers into 2022 and avoids the need to make any significant changes to their terms and conditions.

“We remain available to discuss any reasonable counterproposal that Unite bring to the table.”