Bus drivers threaten more strike action

ACTION: Bus drivers on the picket line in King Street outside Weymouth Bus Depot

ACTION: Bus drivers on the picket line in King Street outside Weymouth Bus Depot

First published in News by

BUS drivers say they will strike again if their demands are not met.

Unite regional officer Bob Lanning spoke as about 60 First Dorset bus drivers took part in a 24-hour strike yesterday after rejecting the company’s latest pay offer. It’s the second strike that’s taken place in less than a month.

Mr Lanning said the drivers will be meeting tonight to discuss if they want to take further action next week and if they want to escalate that action.

He said: “If the company aren’t willing to move, then certainly there will be a strike next week.”

The dispute centres on the pay of the drivers, who claim to earn less than their regional colleagues.

Weymouth and Bridport drivers currently earn £8.30 an hour, whereas drivers at Yellow Buses in Bournemouth earn more than £10 an hour.

Mr Lanning said: “The £8.30 wage is not even recognised by the other bus companies.”

After the first one-day strike, First Dorset did make a revised offer that included a 1.5 per cent increase between April 2013 and April 2014.

But this offer was ‘overwhelmingly rejected’ by members due to the number of strings attached, including changes to sick pay.

Drivers are looking for wages to be increased to £9 an hour without other terms and conditions in their contract being affected.

Mr Lanning revealed First Dorset didn’t take up Unite’s offer of holding further talks before the strike took place.

“They stated they were too busy to talk to me Thursday and Friday. They offered to meet me on Monday under the proviso that I removed the strike.

He added: “At the same time, they stated there would be no new money on the table.”

Marc Reddy, managing director, First Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire, said: “I’m disappointed by today’s action but we remain open to further discussions.

He added: “There are only a certain number of times you can package a deal but I’m happy to have further talks.”

First Dorset continued to run an ‘almost full bus service’ with minimal disruptions on Monday after making extensive contingency plans. One customer, however, who wished to speak anonymously, said enough was enough.

She said: “I’m a monthly pass holder and I travel daily from Lyme Regis to Weymouth.

“I can see why the bus drivers are striking, their pay is shocking. But I need a reliable service.”

She added: “The company has got to get it right because I’m fed up with it.”

Councillor Christine James, brief holder for Transport and Infrastructure at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, is hoping for a quick resolution to the dispute.

She said: “They have got to resolve it or we will just keep going like this.

“If it’s not right, they need to sit down and make it right. At some point, something’s got to give.”

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