Industrial action causes travel mayhem in city
Bus users across Bradford were forced to find alternative routes around the city last week as a two-day strike affected thousands of daily commuters.
On Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th April, bus drivers with ‘First West Yorkshire’ walked out over a dispute with their employers in regard to the possible closure of one of the bus depots.
In total, 380 drivers took part in the 48-hour protest as part of Unite – the country’s largest union, with many gathering at the First Bradford depot, on Bowling Back Lane, Bradford, where a large presence was seen across both days.
Amongst the hundred-plus protestors in attendance were bus drivers Farzan Khan and Zulfakar Ali.
The two employees have been in their roles for ten and eight years respectively, and said it was the first time either of them had been involved with industrial action, yet added that the union ‘had to stick together’.
Unite accuses First of running the aforementioned bus depot down with the intention of closing it in the future, adding there were also allegations of bullying and harassment on a daily basis.
The main issue in dispute is the transfer of part of the 576 bus service, from Bradford to Halifax, with the loss of eight jobs when it will be operated by the Halifax depot.
There has also been an attack on terms and conditions, and the imposition of rosters, without prior consultation and negotiations with the union.
Representatives from the union described this as an ‘abrupt change’ to the previously good relationship between themselves and local management, with Unite regional officer, Harriet Eisner, adding they were left with no option but to strike.
“This blinkered management has let services wither on the vine over the last four years – for example, the number of drivers employed has shrunk from 470 to 380 in that time,” she said.
“While the strike will be inconvenient for thousands of bus users, the bigger picture that Unite is fighting for is the maintenance of good and reliable services with top quality buses, properly serviced. We also want our members treated with dignity and respect.
“There is a big shortage of drivers with no recruitment of new drivers and this is coupled with the movement of jobs without consultation from Bradford to other towns.
“This situation is compounded by inadequate engineering of the buses and the recycling of old buses. Many buses are unreliable – with all the health and safety considerations that this state of affairs raises.
“The management needs to wake up and take the union’s legitimate concerns seriously.
“The company has been dragging its feet in talks with Unite and we have been left with no option, but to call this strike, so the citizens of Bradford get the service they deserve and pay for.”
The drivers had voted by 89 per cent for strike action and by 93 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
In a statement on the First group’s website, the company called the situation ‘disappointing’.
“The dispute is centred around the reallocation of some staffing duties on the 576 route,” it read.
“Some 576 buses are now run by drivers from our Halifax depot, and this was done to balance the amount of work that we had and protect jobs in both areas following tender losses in Halifax.
“Right now our priority is to continue talking with the trade union, but clearly we are very disappointed with the situation, and we are very concerned about the uncertainty and inconvenience that this announcement has caused our customers.”