Bus drivers' strike on Armed Forces Day scrapped as "mark of respect"

By Michael Upton | 24/06/2019

Bus drivers' strike on Armed Forces Day scrapped as 'mark of respect'

BUS drivers have called off a strike which would have hampered veterans heading to Armed Forces Day celebrations in Rotherham.

Unite members working for First South Yorkshire were due to walk out on Saturday and next Monday in a dispute over a proposed pay freeze.

But while next Monday’s 24-hour walkout will go ahead, the first strike — which would have taken place on the day veterans and their families have been offered free public transport to Armed Forces Day events in Rotherham — is off.

The two sides are due to meet for talks over the “insulting” pay freeze offer on Wednesday.

Ex-soldier Justin Moreman, who served in the Army for 21 years, had previously called on members of trade union Unite to reschedule its first day of industrial action, which would not affect Stagecoach and Supertram services.

He also appealed for people attending Rotherham’s programme of events to offer lifts to veterans and even offered to co-ordinate a social media page to ensure as many people could attend as possible.

Justin said a strike on the celebratory day would be “disgraceful”.

But this morning, Unite regional officer Phil Bown said: “As a mark of respect for veterans and other members of the public wishing to attend events on Armed Forces Day on Saturday we have postponed the 24 hours of strike action.

“At a meeting at the weekend, our shop stewards recognised that a strike on Saturday would cause severe inconvenience to veterans wishing to attend events across South Yorkshire — our dispute is with First South Yorkshire and not with current and past members of the armed forces who have bravely served their country.

“I can confirm that the strike by our 900 bus drivers scheduled for Monday is still going ahead.

“We are holding talks with the management on Wednesday in a bid to resolve this dispute. 

“The parent company First Group is highly profitable and made £65 million in profits from its UK bus division for the year ending 31 March 2019. 

“This is a cash-rich organisation, which can well afford to make a decent pay offer.”

First is asking drivers to agree to a one-year pay freeze, saying they already earn a good wage in comparison to other companies. 

The transport firm said Unite had previously backed out of planned talks, cited financial difficulties in proposing the freeze.

Managing director Garry Birmingham said: “We’ve engaged with the Union on several occasions and have made our financial position clear. 

“If we were to increase driver wages, then we would need to review the level of bus services we offer, as well as bus fares, which could result in an increase for customers, which is something we do not want to do.”

Forces veterans and current military personnel can travel for free to Armed Forces Day events on Stagecoach, First and Supertram services by showing valid ID.

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