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Politicians set to show support for First Manchester bus drivers at demo

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, other local MPs and local government leaders plan to attend a demonstration this Friday (28 January) in support of striking First Manchester bus drivers.

It's set to take place at 3.30pm at the First Manchester bus depot on Wallshaw Street in Oldham. 

Ashton and Failsworth MP Rayner will be joined by Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon, Stockport MP and shadow transport spokesperson Nav Mishra, Oldham Council leader Cllr Arooj Shah, Ashton Waterloo councillor Vimal Choksi and other local councillors. 

The 300 bus drivers, who are members of the Unite union, have already taken six days of strike action in the dispute over low rates of pay. It's set to intensify next week as the drivers are due to strike three days a week until the end of February. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The support by Angela Rayner and local politicians is warmly welcome. They will have the opportunity to speak directly to drivers who can explain the effect that low pay is having on them and their families and how the cost of living crisis is making their lives ever more difficult.

“Unite always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first and our drivers at First Manchester will receive the union’s unwavering support until this dispute is resolved.”

The union has announced its intention to hold strikes next week on Monday 31 January and Tuesday 1 and Friday 4 February. 

First Manchester is advising passengers to plan well in advance and have alternative travel arrangements in place, with all services to be cancelled.

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

The Vantage V1 and V2 services based at a depot in Bolton for routes from Leigh and Atherton to Manchester Royal Infirmary are unaffected and continue to operate normally.

Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester, said: “The Company has offered a substantial increase to £13 per hour which meets the trade union’s request for parity with another large bus company in Greater Manchester and we were advised met their aspirations.

“We are eager to see this offer agreed so that colleagues can begin to benefit as quickly as possible from the new rate of pay and an additional lump sum. This will help them to manage the economic challenges everyone is facing at this time.

“This would bring an end to delays and protracted discussions about the 2021 settlement and enable us to begin negotiations for the 2022 pay review, the anniversary for which falls in August.  

“Prolonging industrial action and the possibility of further dates in February is not the way forward to finding a resolution.

“I would like to apologise sincerely to all our customers in advance for the further disruption and inconvenience any continuation of industrial action will cause.”

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

Despite the planned escalation in strike action, the Unite union says it "remains committed to seeking a negotiated settlement to the dispute" and fresh talks are scheduled for Thursday (27 January). 

Although the company’s depot is located in Oldham, First Manchester operates services across the Greater Manchester area. Since strike action began, there has been severe disruption to bus services. 

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