Unite the Union has today (September 9) confirmed First Glasgow drivers are to be balloted for industrial action following 97.5 per cent of the membership in a consultative ballot rejecting the company’s lack of consultation over new service routes.
In August, First Glasgow registered service changes beginning in October without any consultation with Unite, which breaks the existing collective agreement. Unite believes these service changes will result in direct cuts to running times, service routes and recovery times for drivers.
Unite believes the introduction of the changes are motivated by a drive to further increase profits in advance of any potential sale of First Glasgow. In May, First Group announced it is to sell its UK bus operations including the profitable First Glasgow routes. If the ballot is successful, then strike action, and action short of strike, is likely to take place in October to coincide with the new service changes.
The ballot development comes as Unite released the findings of a UK wide survey involving over 13,500 workers operating in bus driving, construction and the lorry driving sectors. The survey reveals that 44 per cent of bus drivers work at least six days a week. Over half (54 per cent) of lorry drivers work over 50 hours a week as do 28 per cent of construction workers The excessive hours being worked are damaging the long-term health of workers across the three sectors. 79 per cent of bus drivers reported that in the past year they had made errors while driving due to tiredness, while 10 per cent had actually fallen asleep while driving.
Mick Dowds, Unite’s National Convenor, stated: “First Glasgow drivers have sent the company a crystal clear message. If you continue with these cuts to services, cuts to recovery times for drivers, and cuts to communities from October then we will take you head on.
“The arrogance of management has been breath-taking, and in our view it is all part of a tee-up operation to squeeze as much from the workforce and the public prior to any sell-off. We will not allow this to go unchallenged, and if the ballot is successful then drivers will bring First Glasgow’s bus operations to a halt in defence of the workers and the public who rely on this service.”
Wendy Dunsmore, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “If these changes are introduced by First Glasgow then Unite will be on the frontline in support of public services and those most vulnerable including the elderly and disabled in our communities. Unite will establish campaigns to help those in local communities who are nothing but a decimal point in the balance sheet to First Glasgow. Again, this highlights the necessity of bringing passenger services back into public and municipal ownership. These are proposals Glasgow City Council must accelerate now, and we will take our campaign to the City Chambers. Under no circumstances will First Glasgow be allowed to fleece our city and drive bus workers into the ground.”