MORE than 1,000 First Bus drivers are to vote on strike action over a "poverty pay" row during COP26.

A total of 1,300 employees have been invited to take industrial action after an "unacceptable" pay rise offer from the employer. 

On October 19, the return of a consultative ballot showed that 99 per cent of Unite’s members working for First Bus Glasgow rejected a pay offer in a 70 per cent turnout.

The ballot is expected to open on November 1 and close on November 15.

The workers had been anticipating a rise last year, however, negotiations stalled due to Covid-19. It was expected that the rise would be rescheduled for April this year. 

It comes a matter of days after ScotRail workers backed a potentially highly disruptive strike action during the COP26 global climate summit in city centre.

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite industrial officer, said: "The reality is that our members will now have worked with no pay rise for nearly two years, which is unacceptable. They have gone the extra mile and they deserve better.”

The trade union has warned that due to low pay and shift work driver shortages are now becoming "endemic" throughout the industry. 

Clydebank Post:


Ms Dunsmore added: "There is a growing shortage of bus drivers across Scotland which is becoming endemic in certain areas of the nation.

"We are increasingly concerned that drivers have secured better jobs elsewhere resulting in bus services being slashed across Glasgow, and it is expected that further cuts to services are imminent. 

"It’s an outrage that the citizens of Glasgow who rely on these services are being badly affected because of First Glasgow’s desire to pay shareholders dividends, rather than to recruit and retain good and experienced drivers.”  

Mick Dowds, Unite convenor at First Bus Glasgow, added: “Drivers have had enough. They are working long hours, weekends and late evenings for £10 per hour which is poverty pay by anyone’s standards.

"First Glasgow need to stop the flood of drivers leaving their company, and they need to start retaining and attracting new drivers.

"The only way which this can be done is through decent pay, and decent terms and conditions. Without this, First Glasgow will not be able to provide the service that Glasgow deserves.”

Elsewhere, binmen, school staff and rail workers in Glasgow have vowed to down their tools in pay rise feuds during COP26.

Around 100 world leaders and 25,000 delegates are expected to descend onto the city on November 1 for talks about the global environment. 

Paul Clark, head of operations for First Glasgow, said: “First Glasgow, like most transport businesses in the UK, we’re experiencing driver shortages, as a result of several factors.

"These include fewer European drivers being available, Covid absences including self-isolation and DVLA delays in releasing provisional licences to new candidates, as well as the knock-on effects of driver shortages in adjacent sectors, including HGV.

“In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to maintain a comprehensive network of services that supports our customers and our communities. The majority of routes are running normally although in some areas we are making temporary timetable adjustments to ensure a reliable service and minimise disruption.

“We are still in talks with our Unite the Union colleagues over pay and conditions as part of ongoing talks and we are making positive progress. We have now agreed on a new starter rate of £11/hour which will come into effect from this Sunday and more talks are scheduled for next week in regard to pay and progression for existing staff. We are hopeful of reaching an agreeable solution in the near future.

“Any potential ballot does not effect services during COP26 and we will continue to do all to support this global event as the eyes of the world turn to Glasgow from November 1st.

“We also currently have an active national recruitment campaign underway, which is seeking to attract new entrants to the industry with flexible working patterns for drivers in Glasgow such as part time working and in addition to full time 4, 5 and 6-day shifts.

“One thing that is clear, is that people are still keen to become bus drivers and serve their local communities, so we are working to make that process as easy as possible.”

Last week, First Bus told to the Post that they were not aware of any plans by workers to strike when they confirmed that they weren't putting on extra services during COP26.

A First Glasgow spokesperson previously told the Post: “First Glasgow are not planning to run any additional services during the events at this time, due to our current driver shortage issue meaning we are at full capacity in terms of staffing levels.”