First bus drivers start all out action

Around 800 drivers for First Bus across the Leeds depots in Hunslet and Bramley commenced indefinite strike action on Sunday 18th June.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

First have made over £200m in profit in 2022 yet they want to delay paying their drivers in Leeds a pay rise. During the disruption to the bus industry as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, the pay anniversary date was moved from April to October.

Given the cost of living crisis, Unite members want it moving back to April, yet First are only prepared to have talks for the next pay round to begin in April 2025! In the meantime they expect drivers to accept a staggered pay rise, with pay in July 2023, more in October 2023, and a final part paid from April 2024.

But the impact of inflation has already hit drivers, they can’t wait to receive parts of a pay rise needed now until later this year and even next year. Many drivers we spoke to on picket lines were angry that the company was insisting on a pay rise covering more than a year, given the uncertainty over inflation levels remaining high.

Drivers reported plenty of support from the passing public, which was reflected on the campaign stall Socialist Party members in Leeds held the day before the strike. Whilst many people regretted the disruption to their lives a strike would cause, they offered their full support to drivers if that was the only way to force First Bus to recognise their demands.

The company are intending on running a limited service between 7am and 7pm. Drivers we spoke to were hopeful that the impact of the first few days of the strike could force First bosses back to the negotiating table, but were equally prepared that a longer period of action, like the successful Arriva strike in West Yorkshire last year may be necessary.

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