Festival strike action by bus drivers hinges on vote over pay deal

The stoppage could still be called off if the drivers vote to accept a last-minute offer
The stoppage could still be called off if the drivers vote to accept a last-minute offer
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Bus drivers in Edinburgh are set to take indefinite strike action from the end of next week, coinciding with the opening of the city’s Fringe Festival.

The Unite union has given Lothian Buses the required notice to say their members will walk out at 3am on Friday 2 August – the first day of the Fringe.

But the stoppage could still be called off if the drivers vote to accept a last-minute offer tabled by the company, which includes a 2.7 per cent pay rise.

An official ballot of Unite members last month produced 91 per cent support for a strike over what the union called a “toxic culture” of bullying and harassment.

Union officials held off calling a stoppage to allow talks organised by arbitration service Acas to go ahead. But members then voted to reject the deal agreed at those talks. Further talks took place last week and Unite regional industrial officer Lyn Turner said new proposals would now be put to the membership in a series of workplace ballots this Friday in the hope of averting a strike.

He said: “I have issued notice to Lothian Buses for strike action to commence at 3am on 2 August and that will be continuous action.

“However, at this late stage the company has given us fresh proposals, which we will now take to our members and we are hopeful that our members will accept the proposals.”

He said the new proposals were based on the Acas agreement and would enhance the deal previously on offer.

And although pay was never an issue in the existing dispute, Mr Turner said the company’s proposals included a pay offer of 2.7 per cent across the board.

He said other proposals designed to address the concerns about bullying included bringing in external experts to look at the management culture, which could lead to managers being sent on one-day courses, and a commitment that management would abide by company policies.

The strike will not affect Lothian Buses’ subsidiaries such as Lothian Motorcoaches and Edinburgh Bus Tours.

Lothian Buses managing director Richard Hall said: “We have had positive discussions with Unite, which has now led to a deal being agreed between Lothian and union officials.

“They have agreed this will be taken forward to their members with a recommendation to accept the proposal. It is the hope of both parties that this agreement can be passed in order to avoid disruption at one of the city’s busiest times of year.”