Bus strikes back on the cards in South Yorkshire, ahead of 'crunch talks'

Bus drivers in South Yorkshire are set to stage two days of strikes if ‘crunch talks’ fail to resolve a long-running pay dispute.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 2:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 6:34 pm

First South Yorkshire staff plan to walk out for 24 hours on Saturday, July 27 and Saturday, August 3, starting at 2am each day, if no settlement is reached during the talks tomorrow.

Unite says around 900 bus drivers could join the strikes, after its members yesterday rejected the operator’s latest pay offer by a three-to-one majority.

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First South Yorkshire bus drivers could strike on consecutive weekends

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The union's regional officer Phil Bown this afternoon said: “We are holding crunch talks with the management tomorrow to see if there is scope for a further improvement in the offer, after our members overwhelmingly rejected it in a consultative ballot.

“If there is no breakthrough, our members will strike for 24 hours on successive Saturdays, 27 July and 3 August.

“We can only reiterate that the parent company First Group is highly profitable and made £65 million in profits from its UK bus division for the year ending March 31, 2019. This is a company awash with cash, which can well afford to make a decent pay offer.”

The union claims services run by the company in Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham, as well as part of the Derbyshire Dales, would ‘grind to a halt’ should the strikes go ahead on those days.

Unite members had voted 69 per cent in favour of strike action and 79 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.

A walkout planned for July 1 was cancelled a few days before it was due to take place, after Unite said it was in ‘meaningful discussions' with First.

Garry Birmingham, managing director of First South Yorkshire, said: “We will be meeting with Unite on Thursday and over the next few days we will be working hard to finalise our contingency plans and establish what level of service we will be able to provide for our customers, should strike action go ahead.”

First South Yorkshire had proposed to freeze pay for all its staff, following what the company described as ‘another significant operating loss’.

But Unite argued that although First South Yorkshire was running at a loss, its parent company First Group could afford to fund a pay rise.