First Dorset bus drivers' strike: Arbitration talks 'in doubt'

Bus drivers' strike
Image caption Drivers have manned a picket line at the entrance to the First Dorset office in Weymouth

A bus firm has accused a union of failing to understand the arbitration process in a dispute over drivers' pay.

About 60% of bus drivers in Weymouth and Bridport are involved in a ninth week of strike action.

First Dorset said the Unite union wanted to reserve the right to vote on the arbitrator's binding decision.

However, Unite said it was its members, and not the union, who wanted the right to vote because they had "no trust" in the bus firm.

Marc Reddy, managing director of the First Dorset, said: "Arbitration is the logical and sensible means of bringing this dispute to an end and we were encouraged that the Union finally showed willingness to enter the process.

"However, any prospect of a settlement through binding arbitration is now in question until the union gets its act together."

Image copyright First Group
Image caption First Dorset said about 40% of its drivers were not involved in strike action and it was providing more than 90% of its services during the dispute

Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said he had refused to sign a paper from First Dorset agreeing that the union would adhere to arbitrator ACAS's decision, branding it "unnecessary".

"I know arbitration is binding, it is the members who are demanding a vote on the decision because they have no trust in First," he said.

He added members were "suspicious" because the firm wanted a further piece of paper signing in addition to the terms of reference.

"If we go in to arbitration the third party makes a ruling and that's that.

"If members then want a vote we would lose any support we have [from members of the public]."

Unite has said Weymouth and Bridport drivers earn £8.80 an hour but want it to rise to £9.50 over three years to match the wages of drivers in Yeovil, Somerset.

But First Dorset has said the increase is "unaffordable".

The first round of action began on 20 June, with the next walk-out due to start on Wednesday.

Acas said it did not comment on individual cases.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites