On the Manchester bus strike picket line (Picture: @AboutMcr on Twitter)

Bus workers’ pay fights are spreading across Britain. Some 360 drivers employed by First Manchester plan to step up strikes following a renewed “sub par” offer.

Strikes began on 3 July and further action was planned for Monday and Thursday this week and then 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 28 July. If the dispute isn’t resolved the Unite union says, “Industrial action will intensify further”.

First Manchester revised its previous poor two-part offer with a three-part deal. The split would see a slight pay rise backdated from April, with others implemented from October and January.

Workers say that the low pay—which is £1 lower an hour compared to different operating companies—has caused staff shortages, creating unsustainable workloads.

And workers are angry at the lack of access to toilets, long shifts and risk of exhaustion.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “First Manchester can dress it up anyway they want but the fact is the drivers will not accept a split pay deal. It’s not like they can pay their rent and supermarket bills in three instalments.

“The company can afford to come back with a deal that takes into account the strains of the job and the cost of living and which is implemented in one go.

Manchester is also braced for strikes on Stagecoach services as over 1,000 drivers ballot for pay strikes.

They have rejected an offer of just 4 percent from June, next year with a further 4 percent in December.

But Stagecoach’s latest financial report showed its adjusted profit before tax increased 98 percent to £36.4 million in the six months to 29 October 2022.

The ballot closes on 27 July and strikes would severely impact bus services across the whole of Manchester.

Strikes at Newbury and District Bus Company have been suspended following an improved pay offer by the company. Members will now vote on the offer and if it’s rejected strikes scheduled beginning on Friday will go ahead as planned.

Drivers should look to Lothian Country and East Coast drivers in Scotland who have won a 19.6 percent pay uplift over two years.

Over 230 Unite members will get the pay rise of around a 14.2 percent initial rise and a further 4.7 percent rise on top of the 2023 pay rate.

Arriva South may strike but Arriva North settles

In south London over 1,000 drivers in the Unite union employed by Arriva have rejected a pay offer worth around 7.3 percent.

Now the workers, based at depots in Brixton, Norwood, South Croydon and Thornton Heath, will ballot for strikes until 2 August.

But their fight won’t be as strong as it could be as Arriva drivers in north London narrowly voted to accept an 8 percent offer with a one-off payment.

Some 755 voted to accept the deal with 508 rejecting and calling for more strikes to win a real terms pay increase.

At Palmers Green depot, just 25 of 176 voted to accept the deal. One driver based there said, “the reps sold us out”.

Many of the workers were determined to win a double figure pay rise but another driver said, the “union recommended to accept this deal”.  He added that some union reps “play with their members, standing in garages and trying to push the deal through members’ ears saying, ‘This is the best you can get’.”


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