Planned 72 hour strike could severely wound council firm’s finances

Council-owned bus operator Network Warrington has warned that a further round of industrial action by staff will be “catastrophic” to the business and  “will have maximum impact on the company’s future”.

It follows a difficult few months at the operator which has seen the departure of managing director David Squire and an emergency financial bailout by parent Warrington Borough Council. The terms and details of this agreement have remained confidential.

Recent months have also seen cuts made to the operator’s network with frequency reductions on a number of routes, with the off-peak periods particularly affected, perhaps demonstrating an effort by the operator to make economies.

Staff have already walked out a number of times over recent months after failing to reach any agreement over pay. Late last month members of the Unite union suspended further strike action after Network Warrington management offered to go to independent arbitration, but this was rejected by the union last week. As a result, Unite has announced that its members will stage strike action from midnight on November 13 for 72 hours.

In a statement, Network Warrington said that the offer of arbitration has been a “last ditch effort to resolve the current industrial action”.

The company continued: “Crucially, the board and Network Warrington’s management team have made every attempt to resolve the dispute and have continually sought the help of the conciliation service ACAS to assist with negotiations.”

The company added that it was disappointed that the offer of arbitration has been rejected by Unite members. “The board and executive directors are very concerned about this decision and had hoped that the union would agree to their request to ask ACAS to appoint an independent arbitrator to hear the case of both sides,” said the company. “This would involve looking at the company’s current financial position and then make an independent and impartial decision that whatever the outcome, the company is willing to abide with.”

Network Warrington said that the process of arbitration was voluntary and that it required both sides to abide and accept the arbitrator’s decision. If it was found to be in the company’s favour this would mean strike action would be suspended.

“The fact that the trade union committee members are against this course of action further demonstrates that they are unwilling to bring an end to the dispute, but are prepared to escalate the situation to further industrial action and jeopardise the whole future of the company,” said the company.

Network Warrington added that it was genuinely keen to bring the dispute to a conclusion.

 

This article, and many others, appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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