New Leeds bus strike as dispute escalates

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The stakes were dramatically raised in the Leeds bus dispute yesterday as plans were announced for open-ended strike action.

Around 1,000 drivers and other staff at the First operator are due to walk out at 2am on Tuesday – with no time or date set for an end to the action.

The Unite union said the indefinite stoppage was a response to what it claims is an “extremely aggressive” stance adopted by First in the dispute over pay.

Unite said its branch secretary had been dismissed along with two other workers for “legitimate trade union activity”.

A further 11 workers had been given final written warnings, said the union.

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First yesterday said it “completely refuted” Unite’s claims of aggressive management tactics.

The company also denied that staff had been punished for carrying out legitimate union activity, saying disciplinary action had been taken in relation to “a number of very serious allegations”. Next week’s strike follows three 24-hour walkouts, each of which caused major disruption for bus users.

Unite regional officer Phil Bown said: “The management needs to stop ducking and diving and commit to holding genuine and meaningful talks, otherwise this strike could go on for some time with an adverse impact for bus users in Leeds – something we have desperately sought to avoid.”

First Leeds managing director Paul Matthews said: “This is not a last resort as Unite claim. Not only do we have a planned meeting before Tuesday to try and resolve the dispute, but Unite have repeatedly refused to let all staff vote on our above inflation offers.”

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