First Dorset strikes set to run into fourth week

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Strike action at First Bus in Dorset is set to go into fourth week as the Unite union announced more strike dates, which the operator has called reckless.

The operator is continuing to urge the union to go to binding arbitration, and expects to continue running 90% of services on strike days.?

The operator confirmed that it has been notified by the union representing bus drivers in Weymouth and Bridport that it intends to call its members out for another three days of action.

Strikes were carried out on Sunday, July 3 and Monday, July 4, with further strikes planned for July 6, 8, 10, 13, 15 and 17 as CBW went to press.

While First Dorset has been able to run more than 90% of its normal bus services on strike days, using staff and managers brought in from other areas, the operator said that the longer the industrial action goes on for, the more harm it will do to both First Dorset’s business and the wider local economy.

Marc Reddy, Managing Director of First Dorset, explained: “We want to give our drivers a pay rise, and we’re happy to back date it to their pay award anniversary (August 2015) but the drivers have to recognise that any pay increase has to be affordable.

“The Dorset business simply cannot sustain the inflation busting pay demands the union is asking for.

“We have made a number of fair and reasonable offers, which come on the back of pay increases made in December 2013 and August 2014.

“We know the drivers want to earn the same as colleagues in different parts of the country, but put simply it doesn’t work like that. Pay awards have always been agreed locally, reflecting the unique operating conditions that our local businesses work within.”

Unite Regional Officer Bob Lanning said: “We have reached the ‘stuck record’ stage. I get emails from the management saying we should talk, but there is never any hint of an improved offer to eradicate the pay disparities across the First Bus ‘family’ in the West Country.

“We understand that local shops and businesses are being hit by the strikes – our members don’t take this action lightly, but they are fed up with being the ’poor pay relations’ and with the point blank refusal of management to rectify these pay anomalies, despite seven months of talks.

“Unite does not want the Weymouth and Bridport economies to suffer as the holiday season gets into full swing. Local shops should put pressure on the bus company to get around the table for constructive talks. We are ready for talks at any time, any place.”