South Yorkshire bus workers to be balloted for industrial action

A First bus
A First bus
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South Yorkshire bus workers are to be balloted for industrial action over their pay, terms and conditions.

First Group bosses have been told that 4,000 workers based at based at Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and York are to be balloted for industrial action, including a strike.

Shop stewards from the Unite union told First Group managers the decision yesterday.

Unite claims wage claims are not being settled, bosses are slow at arranging meetings with union representatives and trade union offices are being closed down.

Unite regional officer Steve Clark said: “A total of 4,000 bus workers in Yorkshire have said enough is enough when it comes to turning the screw on their pay and employment conditions.

“Yesterday, the shop stewards told their respective line managers that Unite would ballot its members imminently for industrial action at the aggressive stance that the company has recently adopted towards its dedicated workforce.

“There is a feeling that the uncertainty caused by last month’s Brexit vote has encouraged the management to take advantage of the current situation to roll-back on pay and conditions.

“If that is the case, First Group will have a real battle on its hands. This is not just about our members and their living standards, but in preserving quality bus services for the travelling public in Yorkshire, often in rural areas.

“Make no mistake, if First Bus is allowed to erode our members’ conditions, the next thing will be reducing bus services, so they can squeeze the last ounce of profit from what should be a public service.”

Dave Alexander, First Bus Divisional Director, said: "We were very surprised to learn of Unite's intention to ballot members. We've received no official notification and simply do not recognise the points raised.

"We completely refute claims that we're taking a more 'aggressive stance against' our workforce. Across our businesses we are committed to providing our colleagues with fair salaries and competitive terms and conditions. Nothing has changed post the recent EU Referendum in the way we treat our employees, or in our engagement strategies with colleagues through the trade unions.

"Indeed in the last couple of months we've reached wage settlements at or above current inflation levels with our employees in two of our three businesses - York and South Yorkshire - through our normal local negotiating process. We remain confident of achieving agreement at our West Yorkshire business and will continue to work hard to achieve this through due process.

"Partnership agreements across our Yorkshire businesses we've either put in place or are establishing ensure that our networks are sustainable providing our customers with stable, quality, value for money bus services. We will continue with our strategies to grow our businesses and encourage more people to use the bus and therefore we completely reject Unite's claim that we wish to 'reduce' services. Any changes to our networks and services are determined by market conditions and our external stakeholders' evolving agendas, all of which we review regularly.

"We've carefully reviewed Unite's media statement and simply cannot comprehend their rationale for balloting members. The claims are simply not true.

"Having attempted to make contact with Unite without success, I'd urge the Union officials to contact our local Managing Directors directly, get round the table as quickly as possible so that we can better understand their concerns."