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Fright Night bus strike chaos

FIRST South Yorkshire's striking drivers are set to cause transport chaos for partygoers at Sheffield's annual Fright Night celebrations - despite a commitment to "inconvenience the public as little as possible".

The Unite trade union has announced two further dates for industrial action to hit Sheffield only, over grievances about disciplinary procedures at the Olive Grove Depot, which had supposedly been resolved.

The strikes will take place on Fright Night on Sunday and on Halloween on Saturday October 31.

Walkouts affecting all of South Yorkshire - over a pay freeze in the current financial year - are to take place on Friday and Monday October 26.

Brandon Jones, First South Yorkshire's deputy managing director, said: "The drivers seem to have forgotten what they previously said about not wanting to inconvenience the public.

"The strike will inconvenience a lot of people because most Stagecoach buses do not run on Sunday."

But Mr Jones said the company was looking at how a skeleton service could be planned - possibly using drivers from Rotherham and Doncaster depots, who are not striking on the two extra dates.

The bus company is planning emergency talks with Unite tomorrow, and is urging the union to call off the strikes.

Fright Night, which has been sponsored by First for three years, is due to feature a host of parties and music events in and around the city centre, with visitors to the city urged to travel in on public transport, with a special ticket offer.

Unite called the strikes over pay after union members rejected a new wage package from next year.

Bob Hamilton, First South Yorkshire's managing director, said: "This is a very disappointing outcome following a set of talks with the Unite Union where we were given assurances that agreements on discipline issues had been reached.

"We are now left with a situation where the Sheffield Union representatives have backtracked on a signed agreement to resolve all the discipline and grievance issues.

"Let the public be in no doubt that Unite has cynically chosen these specific dates to maximise disruption to the community in Sheffield.

"This means its members, the bus drivers in Sheffield, will have to explain to their customers why they have chosen to sit at home and count their 30 strike pay from Unite on what is a supposedly fun night for the city of Sheffield."

Steve Clark, spokesman for Unite, was unavailable for comment.

Coun Ian Auckland, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for transport, said: "I appreciate this is a difficult issue and I'd want to see both sides get together to try and resolve the issues as soon as possible.

"Getting around the city is important for hundreds of people who use our public transport network, so it's in everyone's interests to keep Sheffield on the move. I hope this can be resolved so people wanting to come into Sheffield to enjoy Fright Night can do so by bus."

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