Bus passengers in Greater Manchester will not be able to catch a bus from First’s Oldham depot on two days next week amid strike action.
First Manchester is again giving customers advance notice to plan ahead as no services will run from its headquarters at the Oldham depot on Monday, January 24 or Wednesday, January 26.
School buses, meanwhile, are expected to continue to run on those days.
The Vantage V1 and V2 services based at a depot in Bolton for routes from Leigh and Atherton to Manchester Royal Infirmary are unaffected and continue to operate normally.
Unite the union, which represents more than 300 drivers planning to stike over a pay dispute, had warned last week of ‘severe disruption’ caused by walk-outs, which are also planned for January 31 and over 11 days in February.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Bus drivers, including those at First Manchester, are no longer prepared to accept low rates of pay, for the difficult and stressful work they undertake.
“Unite now does exactly what it says on the trade union tin: it always fights to defend our members’ jobs, pay and conditions. The union will be providing its full support to our members at First Manchester until this dispute is resolved.”
An ongoing sticking point is First Manchester’s alleged refusal to backdate the last pay increase for 2021 to August 1.
Unite says the firm, which recorded an operating profit of £224,3m in 2021, can afford to settle the dispute.
Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester, said: “The Company has offered a substantial increase to £13 per hour linked to the 2021 pay review.
“This is in response to the trade union’s request for parity with another large bus company in Greater Manchester and which we were advised met their aspirations.
“We have also included a lump sum payment as part of the new agreement and offered to equalise the rate for school bus drivers with that of local service drivers, which would mean an even greater increase for this group of colleagues. These offers have been recommended for acceptance by the trade union and we remain unclear as to the reasons why they have been rejected.
“There are no changes to our colleagues’ conditions and whilst reference has also been made to rota patterns, this is simply about the introduction of an agreement signed in March 2021 between the company and the union in which there was a shared plan to update recruiting and working practices to fulfil the Company’s commitments to diversity in the workplace.
“A third week of industrial action and the possibility of further dates in February is not the way forward to finding a resolution. We need to be building for the year ahead and remain ready to commence discussions on the 2022 pay review.
“I would like to apologise sincerely to all our customers in advance for the further disruption and inconvenience next week’s industrial action will cause.”
Customers with pre-bought tickets for both dates will be given a refund or replacement tickets to use for future travel.