'Relentless strikes' add to travel misery say Leeds bus users as First drivers ballot for strike action

Hundreds of readers reacted on Monday as we published news of potential strike action by employees of bus operator First group.

By Corinne Macdonald
Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 12:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 1:00 pm
The Unite union is balloting members over potential strike action.
The Unite union is balloting members over potential strike action.

The Unite union announced on Monday that it is preparing to ballot its 3,500 members at First West Yorkshire, First York and First South Yorkshire over possible industrial action.

The potential strike could cause chaos for commuters who use public transport in the city after rail strikes have already created disruption.

News of the proposed ballot also came as the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union prepared for up for its 47th day of strike action in a separate dispute with train operator Northern.

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The Unite union is balloting members over potential strike action.

Unite went public with its plans ahead of an internal appeal on Tuesday relating to the dismissal of two of its senior reps.

Unite’s regional co-coordinating officer, Steve Clark, said: “We have about 3,500 members working across these three First Group companies where they have been subject to a systematic campaign of anti-trade union activities.

“This is crunch week for First Group in Yorkshire – either there is a dramatic U-turn or we will proceed to industrial action ballots, which will include the option for strikes.”

Supporters believe Unite is acting in the worker's best interest but critics felt the ballot was more to do with the union increasing its profile and would cause unnecessary disruption.Read our original report and comments here.

How you reacted to the debate

Wendie Drammeh said: "Thousands of commuters face travel misery daily with the service offered by First in Leeds. If they strike at least you won't expect a bus to turn up unlike what happens at the moment, waiting for a bus to arrive and it doesn't appear for no apparent reason. Having said that the bus service is vital for Leeds' citizens to get to work, school and college. They should not be allowed to strike, work to rule maybe to prove their point, but not strike leaving the city without public transport"

Greg Henson said: "This strike is because the union want to be ‘recognised’. The drivers are happy with their £22k basic. Seems they only want to bully the company they suggest is bullying them."

Corinne Cannon said: "Relentless public transport strikes drive me mad. The unions claim to be for the people but couldn't care less about anyone not in their little circle. Ignore the fact half the city will have to pay for taxis, miss work, or have to rearrange and miss time with their families."

Gareth Salvidge said: "They should be thankful they have a job."

Simon Cole said: "Is there any need for unions anymore? They should be happy to have a job I bet they would soon be annoyed if they couldn’t get to work."

Ashley Mayhew said: "You get paid to do a job. If you don't like it, go and get another one."

Craig Smith said: "Unions are old fashioned threatening strike action. Members won't go on strike for something that's not happening in the Leeds area. I've worked on the buses for 15 years and the union have ballots for strike action but they won't get the support as people have mortgages and many other bills to pay."

Simon Pierce said: "You lot hold the passengers to ransom. Unfortunately we are tied to having to use them. If I have to pay for taxis to get to work I will be putting a legal claim in to the union."

Kelly Smith said: "Good and so they should stand up for themselves. You have the lack of union recognition in certain companies to thank for zero hours contracts etc. If everyone joined a union in every workplace you’d have better working conditions."

First West Yorkshire managing director Paul Matthews said he was aware that Unite was planning a “consultative ballot” in the Bradford area.

Mr Matthews said he had not been informed about the union’s wider plans for Yorkshire, but added: “We have a good relationship with Unite and are continuing to work closely with them.”A walkout by staff at First in Leeds over pay in the summer of 2016 saw buses on more than 40 routes across the city grind to a complete halt, although reduced services did run on some key travel corridors.

Meanwhile, the RMT’s latest strike on Northern rail services in a dispute over the role of guards on trains is due to take place this Saturday.