How bus and rail strikes could add up to travel misery for public transport users in Leeds

How bus and rail strikes could add up to travel misery for public transport users in Leeds

Public transport users in Leeds are facing up to the prospect of more strike-related disruption amid claims of “anti-trade union activities” by bus operator First Group.

The Unite union today announced that it is preparing to ballot its 3,500 members at First West Yorkshire, First York and First South Yorkshire over possible industrial action.

Unite went public with its plans ahead of an internal appeal tomorrow relating to the dismissal of two of its senior reps.

News of the proposed ballot also came as the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union geared up for its 47th day of strike action in a separate dispute with train operator Northern.

Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer, Steve Clark, said: “We have about 3,500 members working across these three First Group companies where they have been subject to a systematic campaign of anti-trade union activities.

“This is crunch week for First Group in Yorkshire – either there is a dramatic U-turn or we will proceed to industrial action ballots, which will include the option for strikes.”

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Unite says the reps dismissed in West Yorkshire have suffered “trumped up” accusations, including a “ludicrous” allegation of “abuse of power”.

The union also says staff at First South Yorkshire have been hit by the return of a “harsh disciplinary code” and the undermining of long-standing agreements.

First West Yorkshire managing director Paul Matthews today said he was aware that Unite was planning a “consultative ballot” in the Bradford area.

He also said it was his understanding that the Bradford ballot was linked to a disciplinary appeal.

Mr Matthews said he had not been informed about the union’s wider plans for Yorkshire, but added: “We have a good relationship with Unite and are continuing to work closely with them.”

A walkout by staff at First in Leeds over pay in the summer of 2016 saw buses on more than 40 routes across the city grind to a complete halt, although reduced services did run on some key travel corridors.

Meanwhile, the RMT’s latest strike on Northern rail services in a dispute over the role of guards on trains is due to take place this Saturday.