First Group makes improved pay offer to bus drivers in bid to avert further strikes

Bosses at bus company First Manchester have made an improved pay offer to staff in Oldham which they say is worth more than £5,200, in a bid to end ongoing industrial action.

First Manchester said the offer means a pay increase to £15 per hour backdated to April and a further rise to £15.60 from October, with no strings attached.

Overall, it said this represents a 15.6% increase in pay over the period, double the latest rate of inflation at 7.9%.

Rob Hughes, operations director of First Manchester, said: “We have made an improvement to our offer in an attempt to end this dispute and have asked Unite to ballot our drivers.

“This clearly answers the hourly pay rate request made by Unite and is well ahead of inflation. It will make our drivers some of the best paid in Greater Manchester together with additional employment benefits.”

If a vote to accept the offer is made, drivers will receive backdated pay to April of some £1,000. It also means an annual pay increase of more than £5,200 for a driver with more than one years’ service, said the company.

Rob Hughes added: “We have always approached pay talks with an open mind to try to resolve this dispute and move forward, allowing us to focus on the transition period to franchising and providing the people of Oldham with a great bus service.

“Continued industrial action is damaging to everyone and causes yet more severe disruption to the daily lives of our customers who rely on the bus to get to work, education and for appointments.”

Around 360 First Manchester drivers, all members of Unite the Union, have been taking industrial action since July 3, and their latest strike dates are scheduled for the forthcoming August Bank Holiday weekend. Strikes are planned on August 25, 26, 27, 28, and September 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Drivers have already rejected a pay offer said to be worth 15.2%.

They also rejected the company’s offer, split between April and October, which they said would deny staff their full back pay.

Unite the Union has been contacted for comment.