Bus drivers and engineers at Metrobus in Crawley are set to go on strike, after 83 per cent of Unite members across its Brighton parent company voted for industrial action.
Unite said its union members at Brighton and Hove Buses – and its subsidiary Metrobus in Crawley – overwhelmingly backed taking industrial action in a dispute over what the union said is an increasingly ‘draconian’ management style, which has led to accusations of bullying, intimidation and the use of covert surveillance by managers on workers.
This comes as rail union RMT plans a five-day strike next week over conductor roles, and a the TSSA is set to ballot its members on industrial action over the closure of ticket offices.
Unite said it had not yet set a date for strike action, but it would need to give at least seven days notice.
A spokesperson for the union confirmed that Metrobus would be affected by strike action, but that it was not possible to give a breakdown of how many Crawley based staff had voted in favour of a strike in the company-wide ballot.
Janet Henney, Unite regional officer, said: “Our members take great pride in keeping Brighton, Hove and Crawley on the move, but as the overwhelming backing for industrial action shows, have reached the end of line.
“Unite urges senior management to stop paying lip service to good industrial relations and start making the firm the model employer it was once again. Otherwise our members will be left with little option, but to give up a day’s pay and go on strike.”
Martin Harris, managing director of Brighton and Hove Buses, said: “I very much regret that Unite members have voted to support industrial action at Brighton and Hove Buses, but feel I must put some of the confusing statistics around this issue into context.
“It has been stated in a Unite press release that their members have voted 71.4 per cent in favour of a strike, with 83.3 per cent backing industrial action short of a strike.
“But what has NOT been pointed out till now is that of the 962 Unite member working for us, fewer than 500 (497) voted in the ballot – that’s around half (52 per cent) of our Unite members and only around 42 per cent of our total workforce of drivers, engineers and cleaners. Moreover, only around 37 per cent of our total Unite members voted in favour of strike action, with the other 63 per cent either not voting or voting against strike action.
“In the light of this, I would strongly urge Unite officials to stop using inflammatory and over-the-top language if we are to resolve this in the best interests of our colleagues – their members – and our customers. We have both agreed to meet again an I will be approaching those discussions openly and constructively to find a resolution.
“We successfully engaged with Unite many months ago to initiate a full suite of new employment policies setting out our standards of behaviour, including dealing with bullying if it arose. Individual allegations of bullying would be investigated with the trade union and dealt with appropriately.
“It has been alleged staff have been bullied into working overtime but we do not accept that is the case. We would like to reiterate that overtime working by drivers, extra hours and rest day working are all purely voluntary. We have worked hard to reduce a temporary driver shortage by bringing in extra staff to improve services and relieve pressure on our drivers
“We do ask drivers individually if they are willing to work overtime. Indeed, it would be unfair not to ask them, as it is an opportunity for drivers to increase their income.
“Our drivers have a tough job and do it brilliantly, but it is their prerogative to say no to overtime offers, and that is absolutely respected by us.
“Fewer drivers left the company this year compared to last year. This level of turnover is common in the industry but in most months we in fact have a lower than average turnover.
“I sincerely apologise to all our customers for the anxiety this situation must be causing them and any disruption that may result. I will of course do everything I can to keep our customers informed of any plans that will impact on their services.”
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