Manchester First Group bus drivers ballot on strikes over ‘deplorable’ pay offer

Manchester bus drivers employed by First Group are balloting on strike action after rejecting the firm’s “deplorable” pay offer.

Around 360 bus drivers are involved in the ballot, trade union Unite said today (June 8).

It said drivers at First Manchester earn less than other bus companies in the area.

The union claims First Manchester drivers earn £13.50 an hour, while Go North West pays £14.37, Diamond Bus £14.30 and Stagecoach £14.

It said the difference in wages is expected to increase as the other companies implement their yearly pay increases.

First Manchester drivers say that without a significant pay rise, chronic staff shortages and overwork will worsen at the company.

The workers have rejected a 7.4 per cent pay offer backdated to April with a further 3.4 per cent in October.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “First Manchester pays it workers the worst rates in the region, yet profits continue to soar.

“Not only are the drivers struggling with rising living costs, the low wages paid by First Manchester are causing staffing shortages its workers are bearing the brunt of. It’s deplorable.

“Unite’s laser-like focus on defending and bettering our members’ jobs, pay and conditions means First Manchester’s drivers will receive their union’s full and unwavering support.”

The ballot for strike action closes on June 13. Strike action would impact First Manchester services in Rochdale, Oldham, Manchester and Ashton.

Unite regional officer, Colin Hayden, said: “This dispute can be brought to an end quickly, but that depends on First Manchester putting forward an offer that meets the workers’ expectations.

“It can clearly afford to. Our members don’t want to strike and any disruption caused will be entirely First Manchester’s fault for putting greed over the interests of the travelling public.”

In Leeds around 800 First West Yorkshire bus drivers will begin strike action every day from June 18, over the company’s refusal to return the date on which new pay rises are enacted back to normal.

Ian Humphreys, managing director of First Manchester, said: “We are disappointed in the decision of Unite to ballot for possible strike action.

“The management team at First Manchester have been working hard to agree a pay settlement and have made a substantial and unconditional offer. This remains on the table and has yet to be put to our Oldham drivers, therefore, any ballot should focus on this and not on industrial action which is unfair and premature.

“First Manchester is ready and willing to meet and we encourage Unite to join us so we can finalise a settlement and help our drivers to manage the continuing pressure on the cost of living that everyone is facing as quickly as possible.”