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Parents warned to expect school bus disruption amid strike action

Parents and pupils at schools in parts of Tameside and Oldham are being warned about disruption to bus services next week after last-minute strike action has been called. 

In total, 28 services - which also includes parts of Rochdale and Manchester - operated by First Manchester will not be running on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 January. 

The strikes are going ahead after last-minute peace talks held on Friday (7 January) failed to make progress.

First Manchester's depot is in Oldham but it operates services throughout Greater Manchester. The strike will result in disruption to bus services throughout the entire city region, with customers encouraged to plan their journeys in advance and allow extra time for travel. 

Transport for Greater Manchester say it has been working with other operators to cover as many services as possible at short notice, but limited driver availability due to Covid-related staff shortages means not all services can be. 

The following schools will be affected: 

  • Alder Community High School
  • Audenshaw
  • Bluecoat
  • Co-op Academy, Manchester
  • Great Academy, Ashton
  • Kingsway Park
  • Longdendale High School
  • Mossley Hollins
  • Newman College
  • Oasis Academy
  • Oasis Leesbrook
  • Our Ladys RCHS
  • Radclyffe School
  • Royton & Crompton
  • St Cuthbert’s
  • St Damian’s
  • Waterhead Academy

Transport bosses say that, where possible, arrangements have been made with alternative operators for other schools served by First Manchester. Any replacement services that run will display the usual bus service number.

TfGM’s Customer Director Stephen Rhodes said: “We understand the concern parents and pupils will have and I want to reassure them that we’re working closely with the operator and the schools affected to limit the disruption to children as much as possible. 

“Unfortunately, due to the very late notice of this industrial action and staff absences that multiple bus operators are experiencing, we have not been able to secure replacements for all routes. Where we can, we have worked to prioritise those schools with no or limited alternative transport options.

“We have travel information available on our website to help people make informed journey choices and to cycle or walk where possible, especially for shorter trips.“

First Manchester say it is continuing discussions with Unite representatives to resolve the dispute and prevent any further industrial action. 

Unite say a key sticking point is the company's refusal to backdate any pay increase to August 2021 - the anniversary date for when the annual pay increase was due. 

If no resolution is reached in the dispute, further strikes are scheduled for 18, 20, 24, 26 January.

Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester, said: “I would like to apologise sincerely to all our customers for the disruption and inconvenience this will cause.

“We have been holding extensive talks with union representatives over the last few days and made every attempt to avoid industrial action, especially given the short notice this creates for our customers to make alternative travel arrangements.”

He added: “We are extremely disappointed that Unite the Union have chosen this course of action at a time when our efforts are focused on protecting jobs and maintaining services for the travelling public.” 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham commented: “Our members have been hailed as heroes for working throughout pandemic but that praise feels decidedly hollow when First Manchester is refusing to make our members a reasonable pay offer.

“Unite is the union which always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and our bus drivers at First Manchester will be receiving the union’s unstinting support until this dispute is resolved.”

There will be a Unite picket line in place at the First Manchester bus depot at Walshaw Street in Oldham during the strike.

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