South Yorkshire bus strike looms over First Group ‘bullying’ culture

Bus services across South Yorkshire could be hit by strike action with 3,500 First Group workers set to be balloted over industrial action in a row over a ‘bullying culture’ at the transport operator.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 11:44 am
Updated Monday, 28th January 2019, 11:48 am
Bus services operated by First could be hit by strike action.

Workers employed by First Group across Yorkshire are gearing up to be balloted for strike action over what unions say is the management’s “systematic campaign of anti-trade union activities.”

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has written separately to the bosses of First West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire, and First South Yorkshire about the anti-union stance created over many years and warning them that, as a result, there would be ballots for industrial action.

Bus services operated by First could be hit by strike action.

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The situation comes to a head tomorrow in Leeds when there is an internal appeal against the dismissal of two Unite senior reps at First West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire for what the union said were ‘trumped up’ allegations. Unite is demanding their immediate reinstatement.

At First South Yorkshire, Unite said that the drivers, engineers, clerical staff and cleaning workers had been subjected to ‘a return to a harsh disciplinary code’ and the undermining of long-standing agreements.

Unite said that certain managers in the two companies were colluding in a campaign of anti-trade union activities – the union said that these executives should be moved out of Yorkshire, so that a better employment relations’ environment  can be created.

Unite regional coordinating officer Steve Clark said: “We have about 3,500 members working across these two First Group companies where they have been subjected to a systematic campaign of anti-trade union activities.

“There is a bullying culture that certain managers have generously contributed to in recent years.

“This poisonous atmosphere comes to a head tomorrow when there is an internal appeals’ hearing over the dismissal of our two senior reps at First West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire on trumped up charges, including the ludicrous allegation of ‘abuse of power’. We are demanding our members’ immediate reinstatement.

“It is our view that there are a number of ‘bad apple’ managers working for First Group in Yorkshire who have colluded in creating this appalling employment relations’ climate.

“A prerequisite for an improvement in industrial relations is the redeployment of these managers out of Yorkshire.

“This is crunch week for First Group in Yorkshire – either there is a dramatic U-turn or we will proceed to industrial action ballots, which will include the option for strikes.

“If the strike action is voted for, this will cause massive disruption to bus services and the travelling public throughout Yorkshire. The ball, therefore, is very much in First Group’s court.”

Paul Matthews, Managing Director at First West Yorkshire said: “We can confirm that we are aware of the intention to hold a consultative ballot in Bradford tomorrow, which we understand is linked to an internal disciplinary matter.

“We’re not aware of the intention to ballot elsewhere in Yorkshire.

“We have a good relationship with Unite the Union and are continuing to work closely with them.”