Bus drivers vote for strike action over ‘dangerously unsustainable’ schedules
The union Unite says Bradford bus drivers working for First West Yorkshire have voted for strike action.
It says that out of the 350 bus drivers at the Bowling Back Lane site entitled to vote, nearly 300 voted in favour of a strike.
Unite says this is because of their company’s refusal to restore schedules to pre-pandemic levels.
However, First West Yorkshire responded: “We are extremely disappointed that Unite the Union have chosen this course of action at a time when our efforts are focused on ensuring job security and maintaining services for the travelling public.
“A strike will put all this and the future of the business at risk, disrupt services and harm our ability to get NHS workers to hospitals to help fight coronavirus and save lives.”
Unite says traffic and service levels have returned to near normal but members are still working extended shifts brought in during the initial lockdown.
It argues working patterns currently in place are causing fatigue and stress for drivers, which is a danger to both themselves and the public.
Drivers are waiting until after the New Year to announce strike dates.
Unite regional officer Darren Rushworth said: “Unite members at First West Yorkshire’s Bowling Back Lane site have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over their dangerously unsustainable schedules.
“The drivers are well aware of the trying year everybody has had and have decided to wait until after Christmas before going on strike, so people are not inconvenienced.
“In the interim period, we urge First West Yorkshire to restore prior working agreements and guarantee they will not be eroded in future.
“The conditions drivers are currently operating under are unsafe for themselves and the public and if First West Yorkshire continues to disregard this, then industrial action will go ahead in the New Year.”
Paul Matthews, managing director of First West Yorkshire, said: “Unite’s suggestion that our driver are not fit and healthy to drive and are putting anyone’s safety at risk is outrageous and irresponsible.
“Shifts at our Bradford depot are along the same lines as those already accepted by Unite representatives at all our other depots in West Yorkshire.
“Safety of our staff and customers is always our first priority and this will remain so.
“We have worked throughout the pandemic to protect jobs, families and future business continuity. These priorities are understood by Unite at all our other depots in West Yorkshire, representing some 1,500 employees, with whom we have continued to have constructive dialogue.
“At the heart of this isolated dispute is a demand from the Bradford union to restore all pre-Covid working arrangements, which is simply not possible when the health crisis in the country and its impact on bus travel is far from over.
“Passenger numbers are currently at 50% of pre-Covid levels so, contrary to claims by Unite in Bradford, the situation is a long way from ‘near normal’.
“Flexible working is still essential to maintain effective services for customers as efficiently as possible – a key requirement of the vital Government support funding we currently receive to keep trading.
“We have made fair proposals to satisfy most changes requested to the existing flexible working arrangement, which was agreed with the Trade Union at the start of the pandemic and again following a review in July.
“We remain committed to constructive talks to agree a way forward and avoid any industrial action.”