First Bus Leeds: 'Severe disruption' as company confirms 800 bus drivers to go on 'indefinite' strike

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First Bus has confirmed that the strike action will go ahead after Unite members rejected the latest pay offer.

Bus service in Leeds and across West Yorkshire will see major disruption from Sunday June 18 as 800 bus drivers represented by Unite walk out on ‘indefinite’ strike action.

The union says its members will walk out after First Bus refused to return the date on which new pay rises are enacted back to where it was before the pandemic. During the pandemic, an agreement was made with the workers to change their anniversary pay date from April to October in order to assist First Bus financially, which members now want reversed.

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Following a Unite ballot, First Bus has now confirmed that industrial action will go ahead as planned. 

In a lengthy statement, Andrew Cullen, Managing Director of First North & West Yorkshire, said: “We are very disappointed and dismayed at the decision to continue with strike action in Leeds.

“The generous pay offer we made to the union of a 12 percent increase between now and April next year is well above inflation and would have helped our drivers to manage the cost of living as quickly as possible.

“Part of this pay increase would have been implemented now with further rises in October and again in April 2024.

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“The current agreement on pay, which was signed by Unite and its officials, is in place and agreed until October 2023. The anniversary date was changed during Covid in order to safeguard jobs and to enable us to offer an enhanced sick pay scheme during the pandemic.

“As part of our discussions, we listened to Unite’s request to return the anniversary date to April and as part of the offer we agreed to do this and therefore the next pay review date would be April 2025.”

Around 800 bus drivers represented by Unite will start 'indefinite' industrial action on Sunday June 18. Picture: James HardistyAround 800 bus drivers represented by Unite will start 'indefinite' industrial action on Sunday June 18. Picture: James Hardisty
Around 800 bus drivers represented by Unite will start 'indefinite' industrial action on Sunday June 18. Picture: James Hardisty

He added: “Industrial action will be damaging to everyone and cause severe disruption to the daily lives of our customers who rely on the bus to get to work, education and for appointments.

“We are making plans to determine the extent of bus services we will be able to operate from Sunday 18 June and further information will be published on our website later today (Friday 16 June).

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“Industrial action is not the way forward to find a settlement.”

On announcing their plans for industrial action earlier in June, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “When First West Yorkshire needed its drivers to dig deep for the company, they did. Not only did they put their and their families’ health on the line by continuing to drive First buses, they also agreed to delay getting a pay rise. 

“First Group have taken advantage of this sacrifice to keep their drivers’ wages down as inflation has rocketed. Our members are absolutely right to strike at what is essentially a stab in the back by First West Yorkshire and they will receive Unite’s total support.” 

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