Victorious Festival 2023: festival-goers could see transport chaos as First Bus workers plan August bank holiday strike

Festival-goers may be met with disappointment as a transport strike threatens to disrupt a major Portsmouth music event.
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“Severe disruption” is expected to hit over the August bank holiday weekend, beginning on Friday, August 25. Bus workers employed by First South will strike, affecting services in Portsmouth, Southampton as well as Cosham, Fareham, Gosport and Paulsgrove.

The weekend industrial action will affect those who are planning to get to Victorious Festival in Southsea via public transport.

Bus workers in the Unite union will strike this month.Bus workers in the Unite union will strike this month.
Bus workers in the Unite union will strike this month.
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In a statement, Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption, but the company has brought this dispute on itself. Unite has repeatedly tried to negotiate but the employer has flatly refused to engage with us.”

According to the union, its dispute is with the bus company’s failure to increase pay in line with cost of living pressures. Drivers are paid just £12 an hour, while the lowest earners at the company receive just £11.03 an hour. Unite further claims that “the company has refused to negotiate on the issue.”

The four days of strike action - which will begin at 3am on Friday, August 25 and end at 3am on Tuesday, August 29 - will see 185 union members take part.

Victorious Festival on Southsea Common. Picture: Paul WindsorVictorious Festival on Southsea Common. Picture: Paul Windsor
Victorious Festival on Southsea Common. Picture: Paul Windsor

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “First Group has a bare faced cheek. This is a company awash with money and yet it refuses to give its workers a decent increase to offset rampant inflation.

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“Our members who play a vital role keeping the South coast moving are increasingly unable to make ends meet.

“Unite is entirely focussed on the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. The workers at First South will receive Unite’s unflinching support.”

Victorious Festival, which sees thousands of music fans swarm to Southsea Common annually, will kick off on Friday, August 25. This year’s line-up includes headline acts Kasabian and Mumford and sons alongside many more talented musical artists.

Alt-J headline the Castle Stage on the Saturday night of Victorious Festival, 2023. Picture by George MunceyAlt-J headline the Castle Stage on the Saturday night of Victorious Festival, 2023. Picture by George Muncey
Alt-J headline the Castle Stage on the Saturday night of Victorious Festival, 2023. Picture by George Muncey

First Bus South, a subsidiary of FirstGroup, disputes the union’s claims and has suggested and has urged their workers to “halt” the strike. The company also suggested that the contention is around a more specific issue within the business.

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First Bus South managing director Simon Goff said: "First Bus South would like to apologise to all our customers for the disruption and inconvenience this strike action may cause. We are holding further talks this week with Unite to try to avert the planned industrial action.“It is inaccurate to say that strike action has been brought as a result of refusing to make a cost of living payment to our workers. In fact, all drivers have already been given a £47 weekly retention payment, and as a responsible employer, we continue to review all pay and conditions as part of our normal process.

“The dispute centres over 11 supervisors who are not eligible for the weekly driver’s retention payment as they have a different roles within our business. We urge our Unite colleagues involved to halt the action and to continue to engage with us.”

A spokesperson for Victorious Festival said there were transport arrangements in place for those attending the weekend’s event.

Marcus Mumford from folk rock band Mumford & Sons. Picture: Adrian MurrayMarcus Mumford from folk rock band Mumford & Sons. Picture: Adrian Murray
Marcus Mumford from folk rock band Mumford & Sons. Picture: Adrian Murray

She said: “If your journey plans are likely to be affected by the recently announced First Bus strike action, we recommend exploring some of the other great options on offer, such as our Lakeside Car Park and Shuttle Service, Big Green Coaches and the other bus services in the local area that aren't affected, such a Xela Bus - who run a special festival bus service from The Hard interchange, and Stagecoach services.”