Bus drivers and engineers at Brighton and Hove Bus & Coach Company and those working for the Metrobus brand in Crawley, both owned by Go-Ahead Group, have voted to strike.
Unite said claimed the operator was using an ‘increasingly draconian management style,’ which has led to accusations of bullying, intimidation and the use of covert surveillance by managers on workers.
No date had been set for the strike as CBW went to press.
Brighton and Hove Buses Managing Director, Martin Harris, said: “I very much regret that Unite members have voted to support industrial action at Brighton and Hove Buses but feel I must put some of the confusing statistics around this issue into context.
“It has been stated in a Unite press release that their members have voted 71.4% in favour of a strike, with 83.3% backing industrial action short of a strike.
“But what has not been pointed out is that of the 962 Unite members working for us, 497 voted in the ballot – around half (52%) of our Unite members and only around 42% of our total workforce of drivers, engineers and cleaners.
“Moreover, only around 37% of our total Unite members voted in favour of strike action, with the other 63% either not voting or voting against strike action.
“In the light of this, I would strongly urge Unite officials to stop using inflammatory and over-the-top language if we are to resolve this in the best interests of our colleagues – their members – and our customers.
“We successfully engaged with Unite many months ago to initiate a full suite of new employment policies setting out our standards of behaviour, including dealing with bullying if it arose.
“It has been alleged staff have been bullied into working overtime but we do not accept that is the case. We would like to reiterate that overtime working by drivers, extra hours and rest day working are all purely voluntary.
“We have worked hard to reduce a temporary driver shortage by bringing in extra staff to improve services and relieve pressure on our drivers.
“We do ask drivers individually if they are willing to work overtime. Indeed, it would be unfair not to ask them as it is an opportunity for drivers to increase their income.
“Our drivers have a tough job and do it brilliantly but it is their prerogative to say no to overtime offers and that is absolutely respected by us.
“Fewer drivers left the company this year compared to last year. This level of turnover is common in the industry but in most months we in fact have a lower than average turnover.
“I sincerely apologise to all our customers for the anxiety this situation must be causing them and any disruption that may result.”