Two days of strikes by First Manchester bus drivers

Date published: 09 January 2022

Commuters are to expect severe disruption to bus services on Monday and Tuesday (10 and 11 January) as bus drivers employed by First Manchester begin strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Last-minute peace talks on Friday (7 January), failed to make progress, say Unite.

The 300 plus drivers who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, recorded a 99% in favour of strike action. Several rounds of negotiations have been held but broke down as First Manchester failed to make an offer which met workers’ expectations.

No First services are operating on either day, including school services and the Yellow School Bus.

Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester, said: “I would like to apologise sincerely to all our customers for the disruption and inconvenience this will cause.

“We have been holding extensive talks with union representatives over the last few days and made every attempt to avoid industrial action, especially given the short notice this creates for our customers to make alternative travel arrangements.”

He added: “We are extremely disappointed that Unite the Union has chosen this course of action at a time when our efforts are focused on protecting jobs and maintaining services for the travelling public.”

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has been working with other operators to cover as many services as possible at short notice, however, limited driver availability – due to covid-related staff shortages – means not all services can be.

In total 28 services will not run, affecting the following local schools:

  • Kingsway Park High School
  • St Cuthbert’s RC High School
  • Royton & Crompton Academy

Where possible, arrangements have been made with alternative operators for other schools served by First Manchester. Any replacement services that run will display the usual bus service number.

Other commercial bus services operated by First Manchester will also be impacted, and customers are also encouraged to plan their journey in advance and allow extra time.

TfGM’s Customer Director Stephen Rhodes, said: “We understand the concern parents and pupils will have and I want to reassure them that we’re working closely with the operator and the schools affected to limit the disruption to children as much as possible. 

“Unfortunately, due to the very late notice of this industrial action and staff absences that multiple bus operators are experiencing, we have not been able to secure replacements for all routes. Where we can, we have worked to prioritise those schools with no or limited alternative transport options.

“We have travel information available on our website to help people make informed journey choices and to cycle or walk where possible, especially for shorter trips.“

Dedicated travel information pages, containing full information about the services, are available on the TfGM website.

First Manchester is continuing discussions with Unite representatives to resolve the dispute and prevent any further industrial action, which the union has notified is planned for later in January.

If no resolution is reached in the dispute, further strikes are scheduled for 18, 20, 24, 26 January.

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