Lothian Buses strike: Drivers to be brought to Edinburgh to beat strike

Lothian Buses is reportedly drawing up plans to ship in reinforcements to cover for drivers going on strike later this week.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 12:06 pm

Drivers will go on continuous strike from 3am on Friday, the first day of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, after 59 per cent of Unite members voted in favour of the action, amid accusation of a culture of bullying and harassment.

Lothian Buses is reportedly drawing up plans to ship in reinforcements to cover for drivers going on strike later this week.

Drivers will go on continuous strike from 3am on Friday, the first day of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, after 59 per cent of Unite members voted in favour of the action, amid accusation of a culture of bullying and harassment.

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Lothian Buses.

Members voted to reject a last-minute offer by Lothian chiefs, which included a 2.7 per cent pay increase – labelled “too little, too late” by union bosses.

The company is now believed to be setting out a contingency strategy, if no deal can be struck by Friday, for drivers, potentially from Lothian Country and East Coast Buses to keep buses running in the Capital. But Lothian previously insisted that “any strike action will not affect Lothian County or East Coast Buses operations”.

A spokesperson for Lothian said: “We are continuing to work jointly with Unite in the hope of finding a resolution.

“We are doing everything we can to minimise disruption for our customers and we will share information on our website and social media channels when we can.”

It is not known how many drivers could be drafted in or how long the replacements could help sustain services in the Capital, if the strike goes ahead.

City council chiefs have been locked in talks with both parties across the weekend and again on Monday, but no agreement has been reached.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We are extremely disappointed that industrial action remains on the table. The prospect of disruption to the bus service at the busiest time of the year is understandably being met with nervousness and concern right across the city.

“We are doing all that we can to avert this and are in discussions with both parties with a view to finding a resolution as soon as possible.”

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Cllr Kevin Lang, is urging both parties to resolve the dispute – but welcomed contingency measures being drawn up.

He said: “Almost three quarters of people in Edinburgh use bus services to get round the city so any strike, even for one day, risks causing major disruption. It’s why every effort needs to be made by Lothian Buses management and the unions to find an agreement that can stop this industrial action from going ahead.

“However, if the strike does proceed then Lothian is right to do all it can to minimise disruption and run as many services as it can. Our number one concern must be the people who depend on buses to go about their daily lives.”

But Labour Cllr Scott Arthur accused the company’s board of “alienating the public”.

He said: “I’ve been really concerned by some of the rhetoric used by Lothian Buses’ board since the strike ballot overwhelmingly backed industrial action.

“Conduct such as cancelling the historic bus cavalcade and accusing drivers of putting public safety at risk appear completely counter-productive and are alienating the public. This and the pay offer are a distraction, they need to sit down with staff and show they are serious about dealing with the allegations of a toxic management culture which is at the core of this dispute.”

Unite regional industrial officer, Lyn Turner, said: “Talks are continuing, but there’s nothing more to say at this stage”.