Commuters face disruption after tram drivers vote for strike action

Union leaders have warned Greater Manchester commuters could face severe disruption later this month after Metrolink tram drivers voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay.

The 300-plus drivers and supervisors, who are members of Unite, recorded a 97% yes vote in favour of industrial action after being told of a “pitiful” one per cent pay award, which the union says amounts to a real terms pay cut compared with inflation rates.

The first strike days will be Saturday, September 25, and Sunday September 26. These coincide with the match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on the Saturday, and the Great Manchester Run the following day when all competitors and spectators have been advised to use public transport due to extensive road closures in the centre of Manchester.

The tram drivers will also take strike action on Sunday, October 10, the day of the Manchester marathon when the advice, again, is to use public transport.

A further strike has been called for Sunday, October 24, when Manchester United and Liverpool are due to play.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “One minute tram drivers are being hailed as heroes and the next they are facing a real terms pay cut.

“Unite will not allow our members to have their pay and living standards eroded by private companies who are seeking to profit by operating a public service.”

Unite could announce further strike action on weekdays before, between and after the dates already announced, depending on the response of management, it said.

The strike action is a result of a “pitiful” offer that the workforce received following months of negotiations.

Workers were offered a 0.3 per cent backdated pay increase for the period from January to March 2021, followed by a 0.7 per cent increase from April 2021 to April 2022.

The one per cent pay increase for a 15 month period would, in reality, be a large pay cut in real terms as the RPI inflation rate currently stands at 3.8 per cent.

Metrolink is operated and maintained by a joint venture company, Keolis/Amey, which holds the contract to run the Transport for Greater Manchester-owned service.

Unite regional officer, Dave Roberts, said: “Metrolink tram workers, who continued to work throughout the pandemic, are simply not going to accept a frankly pitiful one per cent pay deal.

“Unite has been seeking to resolve this matter for six months without success and our members now believe that as a last resort they have no other option but to take strike action.”

He added: “Strike action and the inevitable disruption that will bring can still be averted if management returns to the negotiating table with a realistic pay offer.

“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”

Transport for Greater Manchester has been contacted for comment.