Lothian Buses drivers set for 'deeply damaging' Fringe strike after pay offer rejected

BUS drivers will walk out for “deeply damaging” strike action from the first day of the Fringe after drivers voted to reject a last-minute offer from bosses.

Saturday, 27th July 2019, 1:14 pm
Lothian bus drivers are set to go on strike next week

Drivers threatened strike action over what they claim is “hostile” and “bullying” management at Lothian Buses – as well as poor workplace relations.

The Unite union gave notice that Lothian bus drivers will walk out from 3am on Friday August 2, unless the move was halted in a vote on Friday. Bosses had tried to stop the action after offering a 2.7 per cent pay increase, not asked for by drivers – which has now been labelled “too little too late” by union leaders. Unite confirmed that 59.4 per cent of drivers voted on Friday to reject the offer and the “discontinuous” strike action will go ahead.

Other measures rejected by the drivers included bringing in external experts to look at the management culture, which could lead to managers being sent on one-day courses, and a commitment that management would abide by company policies.

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Unite regional industrial officer, Lyn Turner, said: “Unite’s 1,700 strong Lothian Buses membership has democratically voted to reject the latest offer from management.

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“There has been progress made in our negotiations through Acas but yesterday’s vote is testimony to the fact that this was never about pay. The depth of feeling from our membership about the toxic management culture speaks for itself. Our members have considered the latest offer too little and too late. Unite remains committed to finding a resolution to the dispute and our door remains open for talks but as things stand the action will go ahead on the 2 August. ”

An official ballot of Unite members last month produced 91 per cent support for a strike.

Richard Hall, Lothian’s managing director, said: “We are deeply disappointed and confused that the deal agreed between Lothian and Unite has been voted down by their members after their full recommendation to accept.

“This is the second time a deal has been agreed between the company and the union only to be declined by the members. This is in spite of the fact it would have provided a significant pay rise as well as a series of additional initiatives to further enhance our engagement with staff.

“Yesterday, we were again reassured by Union officials that they were confident that the deal would be accepted on the basis of their recommendation. We now need to understand from them why this was not the case and are keen to engage further as to how we can move forward. We remain committed to taking whatever steps we can to avoid a hugely damaging strike next week.’’

The city council’s transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “It is deeply regrettable that it has come to this and I know the prospect of disruption to the bus service at the busiest time of the year will be met with dismay right across the city.

“We are extremely disappointed the parties were not able to come to an agreement and will be seeking an urgent meeting to try and bring stability to the situation as soon as possible.”

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Cllr Kevin Lang, labelled the news “very concerning”.

He added: “The differences between Lothian Buses drivers and management will only be resolved through discussion. I really hope talks will continue so this strike action can be avoided.”