Manchester facing New Year bus strikes as drivers ballot over pay and conditions

Buses in Manchester Piccadilly

Residents throughout Greater Manchester have been warned to brace themselves for New Year bus strikes as workers employed by First Manchester prepare to ballot over pay and conditions.

Trade union, Unite, says that, despite numerous meetings, management has refused to make a pay offer which meets the workers’ aspirations.

The drivers are also balloting about ongoing issues regarding working patterns and shift rotas.

Emergency procedures were introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, which members accepted, but they have become increasingly concerned that previous arrangements have not been reintroduced as passenger numbers have increased.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Our members at First Manchester are not going to accept low pay and poor conditions any longer.

“Unite will be ensuring that the bus drivers at First Group get the union’s full support throughout this dispute.”

The strike ballot opens on Thursday, November 25, and closes on Wednesday, December 23. If members vote for industrial action then strikes could begin in early January.

More than 350 bus drivers are part of the industrial action. The company operates from a depot in Oldham but strikes would affect services throughout Greater Manchester and beyond.

The workers have made it clear that they will no longer accept low rates of pay, with the hourly rate of pay for a highly skilled bus driver being £12.40 an hour.

Unite regional officer, Dave Roberts, said: “First Manchester has failed to make a reasonable pay offer or deal with drivers’ concerns over working patterns. This has left our members with no option but to ballot for industrial action.

“If First Manchester is serious about resolving this dispute then it needs to return to the negotiating table, make a pay offer in line with drivers’ expectations and resolve the problems over shifts and working patterns.”

First Group is the second largest bus operator in the UK. Its latest accounts reveal that it made a statutory operating profit of £224.3m.