‘Reasonable offer’ not good enough for drivers set to strike

This coming Monday, First Manchester’s drivers are set to go on strike over pay and conditions. Over the last two years, Britain’s bus drivers have been at the sharp end of the pandemic through staff absences, sickness and deteriorating pay and conditions. This has been exacerbated by more favourable pay and conditions in the haulage industry.

Throughout the bus industry, many drivers have become lorry drivers. Some have turned to taxi driving and parcel delivery – despite the lack of job security, trade union recognition and any kind of pension scheme.

Over at First Manchester’s only garage on Wallshaw Street, Oldham, its drivers have taken this course of action due to one thing. The refusal to backdate any pay increase from August 2021.

Therefore, this Monday (10th January) will see the first of two strikes this week, with the second one being on Tuesday 11th January. If no resolution is sought at the end of this week, there will be further strikes on the 18th, 20th, 24th and 26th of January 2022.

The only First Manchester services that will be running are the V1 and V2 Vantage routes. These are operated from Arriva North West’s Bolton depot on Folds Road, which they have shared space with since Diamond Bus North West took on the Weston Street depot.

First Manchester’s industrial action will have a great affect on passengers on Holts Estate, Alt Estate and Sholver, where they will be cut off from the bus network completely. Fitton Hill’s only bus route will be the 396 to Middleton with Stagecoach Manchester’s 425 journeys running after 6pm.

Whereas passengers from Rochdale to Oldham have the tram in lieu of the 408 or 409, passengers from Oldham to Ashton-under-Lyne face a more complex journey. System One/GetMeThere pass holders will have to get a 76 to Hollins and change for Little Gem’s hourly 151 service. Or the more circuitous 396 route via Fitton Hill, Limehurst Farm and Hurst.

On previous strike days, there had been a residual service on key routes like the 135 and the 409. For tomorrow and Tuesday, no such plans have been announced – whether by First themselves or other operators (as seen in the recent Go North West dispute). COVID-related staff shortages – as seen with the operator’s much reduced Christmas services last year – are a main factor. 28 school services wont be running including Yellow School Bus routes.

As stated by Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham on the BBC website, “Our members have been hailed as heroes for working throughout pandemic but that praise feels decidedly hollow when First Manchester is refusing to make our members a reasonable pay offer.” 99% of staff voted to take industrial action.

In the last three years, First Manchester has shrunk in size considerably. So much so they could really be called First Oldham due to their core operating area. The first part to go was Queens Road depot which is now Go North West. This was followed by Bolton depot which is now Diamond North West territory.

FirstGroup have tried without success to sell the Oldham depot to another operator, with COVID being one factor. Another could well be the size and the age of Wallshaw Street depot, which may have put off a few potential buyers.

S.V., 09 January 2022.

Update (17 January 2022):

Two further strike dates have been announced: Tuesday 18th January 2022 and Thursday 20th January 2022.

One thought on “First Manchester Strike Starts Tomorrow

  1. i think the 184 service could be transferred to First West Yorkshire at Huddersfield if needs be they have quite a load of B9s in the fleet and now E400s

    Like

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