Nearly 400 bus drivers, members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) have begun the first of four separate days of strike action, following the failure of last-ditch talks to resolve a dispute over excessive driving hours.
RMT members at Blandford, Bournemouth, Lymington, Poole, Ringwood and Swanage depots began a 24-hour strike at midnight, with further industrial action scheduled for 8, 16 and 21 January.
The union said it had failed to persuade management of Wilts and Dorset buses to accept a four-and-a-half hour limit to continuous driving shifts.
“Our reps went into talks again last Thursday hoping that two massive votes for strike action would have shown Wilts and Dorset that our members are serious about winning sensible and safe rosters,” said RMT general secretary Bob Crow.
“Our members have voted twice by 10-to-one to take action over what is a simple issue of health and safety. It is time that Wilts and Dorset responded by negotiating seriously.”
Alex Carter, managing director of Wilts and Dorset said the company had offered further suggestions to meet the claim for drivers to work less than the legal maximum of five and a half hours, but union officials had refused to compromise.
“We cannot afford to give in. As with most bus operators across the UK, we are trying to preserve our services while facing higher operating costs such as fuel increases and wage agreements, so demands that will add more cost to bus journeys just cannot be considered,” he said.