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Passengers warned First Manchester driver strikes to go ahead next week

Passengers are being warned about disruption that is expected with strike action by First Manchester drivers confirmed to be going ahead next week.

All of the company's bus services will be cancelled on Monday 24 and Wednesday 26 January, with passengers advised to make alternative travel arrangements. 

All dedicated school services are expected to run and details of routes can be found on the Transport for Greater Manchester website www.tfgm.com

The Vantage V1 and V2 services for routes from Leigh and Atherton to Manchester Royal Infirmary are unaffected and will continue to operate normally.

Earlier this week, it was also announced that strikes are also planned on the following dates: Monday 31 January and then the following dates in February: 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 15, 17, 18, 21, 23 and 25.

The company's depot is in Oldham but it operates services across Greater Manchester, including Tameside. 

The 300-plus drivers, who are members of the Unite union, are locked in an ongoing dispute with First Manchester over pay. 

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.

The workers have made it clear that they will no longer accept the current pay rate, with drivers currently earning £12.40 an hour.

Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said: "Strike action has already caused considerable disruption for bus passengers throughout Greater Manchester. This was directly a result of First Manchester’s refusal to make an offer which meets our members’ expectations.

"First Manchester can afford to make our members a fair pay offer but it has chosen not to. Further strikes can be avoided but it requires the company to put forward an improved offer and to return to the negotiating table." 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “Bus drivers, including those at First Manchester, are no longer prepared to accept low rates of pay, for the difficult and stressful work they undertake.

“Unite now does exactly what it says on the trade union tin: it always fights to defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions. The union will be providing its full support to our members at First Manchester until this dispute is resolved."

First Manchester say it has offered a 'substantial increase' to drivers of £13 per hour along with a lump sum payment. 

The company's managing director is also urging them to 'reconsider their action' and 'continue talking with us to resolve this dispute'. 

Ian Humphreys said: "The Company has offered a substantial increase to £13 per hour linked to the 2021 pay review. This is in response to the trade union’s request for parity with another large bus company in Greater Manchester and which we were advised met their aspirations. 

“We have also included a lump sum payment as part of the new agreement and offered to equalise the rate for school bus drivers with that of local service drivers, which would mean an even greater increase for this group of colleagues. These offers have been recommended for acceptance by the trade union and we remain unclear as to the reasons why they have been rejected.   

“There are no changes to our colleagues’ conditions and whilst reference has also been made to rota patterns, this is simply about the introduction of an agreement signed in March 2021 between the company and the union in which there was a shared plan to update recruiting and working practices to fulfil the Company’s commitments to diversity in the workplace.

“A third week of industrial action and the possibility of further dates in February is not the way forward to finding a resolution. We need to be building for the year ahead and remain ready to commence discussions on the 2022 pay review. 

“I would like to apologise sincerely to all our customers in advance for the further disruption and inconvenience next week’s industrial action will cause.”

Customers with pre-bought tickets for both dates will be given a refund or replacement tickets to use for future travel. Further information can be found on the First Manchester website https://www.firstbus.co.uk/greater-manchester/news-and-service-updates/planned-changes/industrial-action-24th-26th-jan

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