Monday, 18 October 2021
93% vote for strike ballot to win back their agreement
Sheffield TUC says “First Bus must restore safe working hours for drivers in Sheffield”
Long hours =driver shortage = unreliable bus services
“We are fully in support of UNITE bus drivers in Sheffield who are demanding First Bus give them back their scheduling agreement” says Martin Mayer Secretary of Sheffield TUC. “Last Thursday’s ballot showed an astonishing 93% in favour of an official strike ballot if the company continues to force them to work up to 5 and a half hours without a break. Drivers are fed up and leaving in droves – this is why there’s a 10 % driver shortage and consequent cancellations in bus services” he said.
“Bus users will be horrified to know that bus drivers – who are key workers – are being forced to work such long hours,” said Martin Mayer. “This is a stressful job and it’s hard driving a bus for up to 5 and a half hours without a break, often with no access to toilets. UNITE’s “Fatigue Kills” campaign has shown that long hours causes serious ill-health for drivers. It’s no surprise that drivers are leaving and First Bus cannot recruit enough drivers to replace them. This is having a direct impact on service reliability causing cancellations and long waits at bus stops” he said.
“We are calling on First Bus to respect the drivers wishes to return to their previous scheduling agreement. This would certainly be a better way to rectify their driver shortage and restore reliability – which in turn would help build back patronage” said Martin Mayer, who is a former bus driver at the company.
Sheffield TUC understands UNITE reps have been invited in for talks tomorrow (Tuesday) following last Thursday’s ballot result.
Background: In order to help the company during the COVID pandemic which saw an unprecedented fall in patronage, First Bus UNITE reps at national level agreed to a temporary suspension of local scheduling agreements. In Sheffield, this meant drivers working up to the legal driving limit of 5 and a half hours without a break, instead of their normal maximum of 4 and a half hours. This was due to come to an end last month. First Bus has tried to get drivers to agree to continue with these long hours through to March 2022 but this was overwhelmingly rejected in a ballot last month. However First Bus has failed to restore the local scheduling agreement, hence the local UNITE reps holding a “test the water” ballot last week to see if drivers were prepared for strike action if necessary. Similar ballots are taking place across other First Bus depots notably in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield etc.