Edinburgh bus strike looks like it's back on after drivers reject latest proposals

A strike could coincide with the start of the Festivals
A strike could coincide with the start of the Festivals
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A THREATENED bus strike in the Capital looks as if it is back on after drivers voted to reject proposals which emerged from talks at arbitration service Acas.

The Unite union said it would seek further talks with Lothian Buses in a bid to find a resolution to the dispute over alleged bullying and harassment by management.

But members have already voted 91 per cent in favour of strike action and the union could give official notice of a stoppage at any time.

The union has previously said it could time the action to coincide with the start of the Festival when the Capital is at its busiest.

The row dates back to December when a bus driver was sacked for sharing a mocked-up image of managing director Richard Hall as a jester on a closed Facebook group with other drivers. Up to ten other employees were also suspended for complaining about bosses on a closed Facebook group around the same time.

After the vote for strike action in an official ballot of Unite's 1700 members last month, which saw a 63.2 per cent turn-out, the union said the overwhelming support for a walk-out demonstrated the lack of trust and confidence in the company's management. But union officials held off giving formal notice of a stoppage to allow planned talks under the supervision of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to go ahead.

The union said earlier this month the talks had produced a potential way forward and proposals were put to meetings of members on Sunday and Monday.

However, the overall result was to reject the Acas proposals by almost two to one.

One member said the proposed agreement would have restored right for union branch officials to time off work for meetings with management and surgeries with members, but did not address the core issue.

"The Acas proposals were about giving the union back what the company had taken off them, there was nothing new.

The workforce is not interested in that. We're interested in dealing with the bullying and harassment and the colleagues we've lost, as over that jester post. You're walking on eggshells when you come into this place.

"Richard Hall was apparently telling the council he would avert the strike, but he's not managing to do that. I think the strike has to go ahead now."

Mary Alexander, deputy Unite Scottish secretary said: "Following Acas talks, the proposals were put to members at meetings on July 7 and 8. At both meetings the proposals were rejected by the majority of those present. Therefore the mandate for strike action remains live. Unite will continue our efforts to resolve matters via further talks but clearly we stand ready to exercise our mandate if necessary."

A Lothian Buses spokesman said: “We undertook constructive talks with Unite and an agreement was reached on all matters raised. Unite agreed to take this back to their membership with a recommendation for acceptance.

“We continue to work positively with Unite to reach conclusions based upon the agreement we made at Acas.”