Leaders of the Unite union claimed a culture had been created where workers feared for their jobs. And they warned unless there was a change of attitude by the company, a walkout could see buses taken off the streets within weeks.
Anger has been mounting since December when a bus driver was sacked and around ten others were suspended over posts on a closed Facebook group in what was said to be the latest example of a growing problem of bullying and harassment by management at the council-owned bus company.
Unite said a consultative ballot was beginning today and would run until 12 April. It will test the mood on industrial action and is expected to pave the way for a formal ballot to authorise a strike.
The union said it had proposed talks with management at conciliation service Acas.
It said the “facility” time that branch officials were allowed off work for meetings with management and surgeries with members – a long-established union right – had been reduced by the company to virtually nothing.
Unite regional officer Lyn Turner said: “The hostile and bullying environment being deliberately created by Lothian Buses management will not go unchallenged.
“There prevails a culture where workers genuinely fear for their jobs and now Unite members are being denied the opportunity to be effectively represented. We have tried to raise issues with Lothian Buses senior management, including offering to go to mediation through Acas, but they have repeatedly frustrated this process.
“The imminent ballot will determine how we move forward but I am 100 per cent certain we will be given a mandate to hold a legal ballot and then Lothian Buses will have a dispute on their hands.”
It was revealed in December a driver had been sacked over a mocked-up picture of Lothian Buses boss Richard Hall.
The driver, who had never been in trouble with management before, spotted the joke image of Mr Hall’s head on a jester’s body on a private social media page and shared it with another closed Facebook group.
Lothian Buses said: “Lothian has already confirmed to Acas that it is prepared to take part in conciliation sessions with Unite and, as such, we are disappointed that Unite have again engaged with the media.”