BUS drivers in Dorset are ‘hopeful’ that further talks next week will resolve a dispute over pay.

But more strikes in February are possible.

Industrial action at Weymouth and Bridport depots planned for Monday, February 3 has been called off as representatives from Unite, the country’s largest union, continue discussions with the First bus company.

The dispute centres on the pay of the drivers, currently on £8.30 an hour, compared with their regional colleagues.

Unite spokesman Bob Lanning said a meeting on Wednesday was ‘positive’ with drivers hoping to reach an amicable solution and bring talks to a close.

But if negotiations, which pick up again next Monday, break down the union has given the company notice that there will be further strikes on Thursday, February 6 and Monday, February 10.

It involves around 60 drivers at First Dorset and Hampshire and will hit the Bridport, Portland and Weymouth areas.

The drivers already held a successful 24-hour strike last week although most buses still ran.

Mr Lanning said: “The talks have been constructive and we are still hopeful that we can reach an amicable solution.

“Some parts of the meeting were positive and all we will see what happens next week now.”

He added: “Unite is working very hard to achieve a fair settlement, however, our members are becoming increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations from the management side.

“Because our members think that the firm is dragging its feet, Unite has announced two days of strike action on 6 and 10 February. If the strikes go ahead, they will start at 4.30am and run for 24 hours from that time.

“The issue here is very clear; other regional bus operators are offering much better rates of pay as our members really struggle to meet ends meet because of the cost of living crisis.”

Dervla McKay, general manager for First Dorset, said: “Following productive discussions, the strike planned for Monday, February 3 has been postponed.

“We shall continue to work with Unite to try and bring talks to a conclusion."

Former bus driver Roy Thorpe urged bus drivers in Weymouth not to settle for anything less than what other drivers across the county are being paid.

He said: “These issues have been going on for years but many were too afraid to strike over fear of losing their jobs.

“Drivers in Yeovil and Bournemouth have always been paid higher than those in and around the Weymouth area and it's just not right.

“If the drivers settle for anything less than these other drivers at this point they will always be paid less than the rest of the county.”