Edinburgh Lothian Buses strike: Council HR official to oversee 'bullying' investigations
A city council official will be drafted into Lothian Buses to oversee complaints of “behaviours and trust” with management, if drivers back a new deal to avert strike action on Friday.
Last week, union leaders and Lothian Buses management brokered a deal, which led to continuous strike action being suspended. The agreement, which features 13 bullet points, will be voted on by Unite members on Friday after being unanimously backed by union stewards. If approved, strike action is set to be halted – but drivers could reject the deal, leading the way for a walkout.
The strike action was initially tabled amid allegations of a “toxic management culture” within Lothian Buses’ management.
Included in the new offer is “a high level of review of all cases received from the union in respect of bullying and harassment”, while “an independent HR officer” from the city council will be brought in to supervise the issues being tackled.
Unite regional industrial officer, Lyn Turner, said: “Unite is confident that the latest proposals put forward by Lothian Buses will give our members the assurances required to address the long-standing issues of bullying and harassment at the organisation which are the focus of this dispute.
“However, this is not exclusively about the workplace culture as there are other issues affecting the conditions of our members such shift patterns and the types of buses driven which are part of the equation. The issue is now in the hands of our membership and Unite will announce the result of the ballot this Friday.”
A Lothian spokesperson said: “Following positive talks, proposals were agreed between Unite officials and Lothian which led to the suspension of last Friday’s proposed strike action.
“The proposals include the option to appoint an external independent consultant who has extensive experience of change management programmes at a public sector level and who has worked with Unite representatives previously.
“The proposals as tabled were then approved at a full Unite committee meeting where union representatives agreed to recommend the deal for acceptance in a workplace ballot on Friday 9 August.”
Conservative transport spokesperson Cllr Nick Cook, said that drafting a taxpayer-funding HR officer would “raise a few eyebrows”.
He added: “Potential costs aside, this does appear to show that Lothian Buses’ top brass feel they have nothing to hide in respect of the company’s management culture or treatment of staff. Other aspects of the deal range from fair, to generous, in my estimation. It remains the case that the Edinburgh public will suffer most from any strike.”
Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Cllr Kevin Lang added: “It is clear a major effort is needed to rebuild the trust and confidence which drivers have in the management at Lothian Buses.
“If more direct involvement from the council can assist and is acceptable to all sides then we need to make sure the appropriate resources are provided. The people of this city depends on bus services to get about so all of us have an interest in ensuring those issues that very nearly led to strike action are properly addressed.”
The council's transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “Colleagues from the council’s HR team, with extensive change management experience, have already met with Lothian and will continue to provide support, working closely with both Unite and Lothian representatives.
“In addition, the council has noted Unite’s views on these matters and has made it clear to all parties we expect to see rapid progress to improve the current position.”