First Dorset strikes continue for second week

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Four further days of strikes planned after five-day walkout last week

First bus services in Weymouth, Portland, Dorchester and Bridport are set to be disrupted again this week as the Unite union representing bus drivers in a long running pay dispute has called for four more days of strike action.

The additional days for industrial action, which was ongoing as CBW went to press, are Monday June 27, Wednesday June 29, Friday July 1 and Sunday July 3.

First said the move will inconvenience local people and is considered completely unnecessary by the company. It has urged union officials to call off the dates and get back round the table and formally resolve the dispute through arbitration with ACAS.

The company said it remains willing to talk and negotiate, but cannot agree to the inflation busting pay increases the union is demanding.

Marc Reddy, Managing Director of First Dorset, explained: “We recognise our drivers do a great job and in an ideal world we’d love to give them what they want, but it’s simply not affordable.

“We have to balance what they want, with what the business can afford and with prices the customers are willing to pay. To that end, we’ve tabled a number of different offers over the past few months, all of which we consider to be fair and reasonable.

“It’s deeply unfortunate and frustrating that the union is taking this action, especially since our offers come on the back of pay increases in 2013 and 2014.

“We have been working hard to minimise the impact of the industrial action to date, and can report that so far we’ve been able to operate 87% of the services that normally run, and we’d hope to be able to do the same this week, if need be.

“The dispute is clearly disruptive though, and having an impact on people who simply want to use the bus as normal, whether that’s going to school, work or leisure destinations.

“We’d like to sincerely apologise to our customers who have been affected by this action. We remain committed to resolving the dispute as soon as possible. I’d urge the union to join us in formal arbitration so that we can settle our differences and provide our customers with the service they expect.”

Unite Regional Officer Bob Lanning said: We are faced with an intolerable situation where twice in the last 10  days the management have said that they would come to the table with an improved offer – and on both occasions they have not budged.

“This dispute is being pockmarked by the management’s bad faith and broken promises. As a result, we are calling four more days of strike action next week as our members are very angry at the management’s duplicity.”