Brighton bus drivers vote to strike

Posted On 03 Aug 2016 at 2:26 pm

Strike misery for Brighton and Hove commuters looks set to spread from the trains to the buses as Brighton and Hove Buses and Metrobus drivers vote to walk out in protest at “draconian” management.

Buses in North Street. Picture by Matt Davis on Flickr

Trouble on the buses has been rumbling for several months, with a consultative ballot in May finding that most were open to the idea of strike action.

Today, the Unite union said that 71.4 per cent had voted for a strike, with 83.3 per cent backing industrial action short of a strike – typically work to rule.

The union says that trouble began following the retirement of popular managing director Roger French, which heralded a new hardline management team at the company, owned by Go Ahead – also the parent company of Southern Rail.

Among the accusations are harassment, intimidation and covert surveillance.

Many bus drivers and engineers have quit, resulting in delays to services – which are now set to be even harder hit by walkouts.

Unite regional officer Janet Henney said: “People used to love working at Brighton and Hove Buses and it used to be held up as local model of good employment.

“This simply is not the case any more with many of our members dreading going into work. They have had enough of being bullied, intimidated and spied on when on sick leave and want to see an end to the ‘draconian’ management style which has created a culture of fear.

“Our members take great pride in keeping Brighton, Hove and Crawley on the move but, as the overwhelming backing for industrial action shows, have reached the end of line.”

“Unite urges senior management to stop paying lip service to good industrial relations and start making the firm the model employer it was once again. Otherwise our members will be left with little option, but to give up a day’s pay and go on strike.”

Martin Harris

Martin Harris

Brighton and Hove Buses managing director Martin Harris said: “I very much regret that Unite members have voted to support industrial action at Brighton and Hove Buses but feel I must put some of the confusing statistics around this issue into context.

“It has been stated in a Unite press release that their members have voted 71.4 per cent in favour of a strike, with 83.3 per cent backing industrial action short of a strike.

“But what has not been pointed out till now is that of the 962 Unite member working for us, fewer than 500 (497) voted in the ballot – that’s around half (52 per cent) of our Unite members and only around 42 per cent of our total workforce of drivers, engineers and cleaners.

“Moreover, only around 37 per cent of our total Unite members voted in favour of strike action, with the other 63 per cent either not voting or voting against strike action.

“In the light of this, I would strongly urge Unite officials to stop using inflammatory and over-the-top language if we are to resolve this in the best interests of our colleagues – their members – and our customers.

“We have both agreed to meet again and I will be approaching those discussions openly and constructively to find a resolution.

“We successfully engaged with Unite many months ago to initiate a full suite of new employment policies setting out our standards of behaviour, including dealing with bullying if it arose. Individual allegations of bullying would be investigated with the trade union and dealt with appropriately.

“It has been alleged staff have been bullied into working overtime but we do not accept that is the case. We would like to reiterate that overtime working by drivers, extra hours and rest day working are all purely voluntary.

“We have worked hard to reduce a temporary driver shortage by bringing in extra staff to improve services and relieve pressure on our drivers

“We do ask drivers individually if they are willing to work overtime. Indeed, it would be unfair not to ask them as it is an opportunity for drivers to increase their income.

“Our drivers have a tough job and do it brilliantly but it is their prerogative to say no to overtime offers and that is absolutely respected by us.

“Fewer drivers left the company this year compared to last year. This level of turnover is common in the industry but in most months we in fact have a lower than average turnover.

“I sincerely apologise to all our customers for the anxiety this situation must be causing them and any disruption that may result.

“I will of course do everything I can to keep our customers informed of any plans that will impact on their services.”

  1. Teresa Lipson Reply

    A few weeks ago I wrote to local councillors to complain about the deterioration of the No 7 bus service in the last couple of years. I received a reply from Saoirse Horan saying that she had a meeting with Mike Harris to discuss the bus services. This meeting was due 3 weeks ago but despite my writing again I have had no reply from Ms Horan. I asked if she could arrange a public meeting with the bus company but so far this has been ignored. I am not surprised to hear about the strike but would like to know who is advocating for the poor travelling public.

  2. Stephen Quilter Reply

    Where’s your Local M P. When all this stuffs going on ? No one seems to care about us workers that use public transport

    • Brian Reply

      MPs can do very little – this is a dispute between a private company and its staff.

  3. Brian Reply

    The service provided by B&H is dreadful, so many cancellations and no information. It’s also over priced, Now we know why so many cancellations, the management team haven’t been looking after their staff and people have resigned.

  4. Rex Reply

    Brighton and Hove buses are owned by the Go ahead group, the go-ahead group form one part of the GOVIA group (with KEOLIS whom are owned/or run by SNCF-the French railways network).

    Govia run the southern rail network (and Thameslink services)and we all know what problems are going on there…

    All a bit fishy!?!

    They couldn’t manage a party in a brewery is all I can say.

    oh and re-nationalizing the rail network can be the only alternative; as private companies are not interested in the needs of the people/workers.

  5. brightonsoapbox Reply

    They do harass their staff when off sic and people can only take so much pressure before it all gets too much. As a result staff end up off sick with stress related illness. It should be your people before your profits. Us little people doing menial jobs keeps this country ticking over, not overpaid ceo’s and pen pushes. Look after your staff and they will look agter your customer’s.

    • tony brown Reply

      I was at brighton and hove and was ok sick i was made to see thery dr who signed me off unfit to drive but befor i could see the dr again i was told to take a driver assemont but i was still off sick i was in hosp on the day and cos i could not make it i was sacked on the spot but i was still signed of by they dr that how they look after the drivers

  6. Arthur Pendragon Reply

    Some including the Greens, and a little later Corbyn (always copies Green policies but gives little focus on the environment as he doesn’t get it) are calling for bus services to come back under local authority control. Remember the corporation of B&H buses? No surprise there is a connection between Govia there! Martin Harris pulls off some classic new Labour spin there. If he retires I’m sure he can find a slot as a Labour councillor on Blairite Brighton Council.

  7. Exdriver Reply

    I consider myself a well educated person. I took a position as a driver with B&H buses. I can honestly say I have never in 20 years worked with such a nice bunch of guys and girls. The company is a mess they do not listen they pressure the drivers into taking overtime if you turn it down once you don’t get another chance. Constant pressure to maintain times despite many route planning being out of date the service is terrible simply because management don’t listen to the vast experience of the drivers. Waiting in bus stops constantly customers getting angree because route times just don’t work. It’s a shame the management don’t listen to the drivers on the front line. Great company badly managed.

  8. Rob bus user Reply

    Exdriver interesting but not giving overtime cos of one refusal isn’t credible if they’re so desperate. When timetable changes are listed often says “suggested by drivers”, in September’s changes a lot of routes say “more time allowed to improve performance”.

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