Industrial action looms at bus manufacturer

Workers at Leeds-based bus manufacturer Optare have voted in favour of strike action.

Trade union Unite says this is over the company’s “broken promise” to provide a pay increase for 2019 and 2020.

Optare says it is currently involved in close talks with its employees and their representatives. But Unite said the bus-maker has refused to honour an August 2019 pledge to implement a pay rise by November of that year.

It adds the company – which is a subsidiary of Ashok Leyland, the listed Indian commercial vehicles group – has left its more than 100 Optare members with no choice but to take strike action after repeatedly postponing planned pay negotiations since November 2019.

Unite members voted 73% in favour of strike action and industrial action short of a strike at Optare’s factory in Sherburn in Elmet.

A continuous overtime ban will begin on 15 October and will be followed by a series of 48-hour discontinuous stoppages that will limit production and the number of deliveries accepted.

Unite regional officer Richard Bedford said: “The decision to strike is never taken lightly, especially in the current climate, but our members have reached the end of their tether with Optare’s point blank refusal to honour its word.

“Optare’s staff, who are paid well below industry standard, are loyal and put their all into the company. They are simply asking for a reasonable pay rise and have been pushed into taking this action because of Optare’s broken promises.

“The situation has been made worse because staff have agreed to defer pay negotiations on a number of occasions at the company’s request.

“Their good faith has been rewarded with the runaround resulting in a complete refusal to provide the promised pay increase.

“There is still time to avoid disruption to the business and Unite is calling on Optare to get back around the table to find a solution.”

The Optare spokesman responded: “Optare is in close talks with its employees and their representatives.

“We hope to achieve an appropriate agreement to ensure a sustainable future for the company. But as a matter of policy, we do not comment about any actions under consideration by union representatives.”