Lothian Buses set for strike ballot

Tuesday April 16th 2019

Lothian Buses

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

Buses are set to be taken off the streets after the majority of Lothian staff who took part in a consultation backed strike action.

The Unite union has confirmed that it will formally ballot its Lothian Buses members for industrial action next month. In a three-week long consultative ballot, 94 per cent of Unite members who took part, indicated support for industrial action.

Anger has been building up since December when a bus driver was sacked and around 10 others were suspended over posts on a closed Facebook group in what was claimed to be the latest example of a growing problem of bullying and harassment by management at the council-owned company.

The latest move follows a breakdown in negotiations with Lothian Buses management at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Lothian Buses has accused the union of being unwilling to engage and has rubbished any claims of bullying.

The situation has escalated after Lothian Buses management axed time off for union bosses to carry out duties which Unite claims was in response to collective grievances being lodged over the poor workplace relations. Unite has threatened industrial tribunal action over the move and labelled it “trade union victimisation”.

The union has stated that unless facility time was re-instated then industrial action would be inevitable.

Unite regional industrial officer, Lyn Turner, said: “The consultative ballot results have come out and we will take stock of it. We still remain open to discussions but the hostility has put a marker down.

“If we do go ahead with industrial action it could be from buses not being on the road to working to rule. The last thing we want to do is take industrial action, but if our arms are being tied by the company, then we will have no choice than to use all options available to us.”

He added: “We have a number of outstanding issues in relation to procedural agreements, which includes on bullying and harassment. This is illustrated by the decision to remove facility time for the two senior Unite representatives. This decision in our view is trade union victimisation and we will now move to an employment tribunal.

“Unite has repeatedly warned that unless this catalogue of issues were addressed then there would be overwhelming support to move towards an industrial action ballot. This has proven to be the case. It’s disappointing that it has come to this but the consultative ballot result clearly shows that our members are prepared to do whatever it takes to get Lothian Buses to understand the strength and depth of feeling.”

It is thought that the formal ballot could take place next month.

A spokeswoman for Lothian Buses, said: “Despite the fact that the union and the business attended talks with ACAS last week, Unite thus far seem unwilling to engage in serious discussion.

“We absolutely refute any allegations of bullying. The branch chair and secretary are allocated four days per month to attend to their union duties – time which is paid for by Lothian and is way above what we are required to provide by law.

“We are at a loss to understand why the union hierarchy is intent on pursuing this damaging course of action that has the potential to impact on our customers.”

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