Edinburgh bus drivers to vote on possible strike at Christmas

Bus drivers in Edinburgh are to vote on possible industrial action in a move which could pave the way for strikes in the run-up to Christmas.

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Unite the Union confirmed a consultative ballot would be held later this month among its 2,000 members at Lothian Buses’ Lothian City subsidiary which covers the Capital.

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It comes after drivers demanded an end to the longer shifts which they agreed to work during the Covid pandemic to help the company after a dramatic fall in passenger numbers and to combat a driver shortage.

The ballot will take place later this month. Picture: Neil Hanna

If the consultative ballot goes in favour of action, that would be followed by a formal legal ballot which would be expected to go the same way, spelling likely disruption as drivers walk out in the weeks before Christmas.

It is understood the company approached the union early in the pandemic to ask for a change in the shift arrangements because of the effect Covid was having.

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Under the agreement to vary the drivers’ terms and conditions, the normal hours are due to return on April 1, but a recent branch meeting voted to call for an immediate return now that much was back to normal.

But the company is said to have refused to end the longer shifts at this stage on the grounds there is still a shortage of drivers.

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Unite regional officer, Lyn Turner, said: "We have met with management. We lent the company these terms and conditions during the pandemic, but a motion was passed at the branch wanting them back now and in the light of that it is only right we consult with our full membership in Lothian City.”

In 2019, Edinburgh bus drivers threatened to go on strike during the Festival in protest against a "toxic management culture" within Lothian Buses' management. A consultative ballot had produced a 94 per cent vote in favour of strike action, leading to a formal ballot which gave 91 per cent backing for a walk-out.

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A strike date was set, but the action was called off at the last minute after talks between the company and the union at which the management offered concessions.

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