First Bus refutes Hilsea drivers’ claims of bullying and underpayment

FIRST Bus drivers are consulting their union after claims the company failed to ensure staff received full furlough payments and have accused management of ‘bullying’ tactics including the threat of redundancy if employees continued to persist with back-payment claims.

Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 1:58 pm
First Bus drivers from the company's Hilsea depot are in dispute over Furlough payments. Stock Picture: First Solent

The allegations from drivers at the Hilsea depot have been denied by the bus company.

A driver who contacted The News but wished to remain anonymous claimed the company ‘messed up’ in processing furlough claims during the last lockdown which led to eligible drivers being paid less than the 80 per cent that employees were entitled to.

He commented: ‘There were variation in payments but on average drivers ended up being paid less than the 80 per cent we should have got. Twenty of us are going to a tribunal to get this money we are owed back.’

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The drivers claim that company bosses are pressurising claimants to forgo any outstanding furlough claims from the first lockdown.

The driver added: ‘Drivers who currently have active claims against First Bus for the first furlough pay scheme, which was not paid correctly, are constantly being intimidated by local management. They say we are greedy and selfish because until we withdraw our claims no one will be paid furlough and we could be costing people their jobs.’

The driver claimed the company were threatening to only pay statutory sick pay rather than applying for a new furlough claim for any driver who refused to withdraw their claim from the last lockdown.

The driver added: ‘It’s a real kick in the teeth. If First Bus had paid us correctly from the start, we would not be in this position.’

The drivers said they have now contacted their union Unite over what action to take next.

While Unite have confirmed there are ‘outstanding issues’ to resolve they have not revealed specific details.

Unite regional secretary Sarah Carpenter said: ‘Bus drivers in Portsmouth, as is the case of the rest of the country, are having a difficult time as they seek to provide a good and reliable service for travellers in a Covid-19 safe environment.

‘Unite hopes that the First Bus management actively engages with us to resolve the outstanding issues at the Hilsea depot. Unite won’t be commenting further at this stage.’

In a message to its workforce First Bus confirmed it has now entered a period of consultation with Unite which will last for a minimum of 45 days to ‘emerge from the pandemic’.

The message stated: ‘We strongly believe Hilsea can be a sustainable business but only if we have a fit for purpose functioning commercial operating model.’

First Bus have refuted the drivers claims and accusations.

A company spokesman said: ‘These spurious allegations of bullying and underpayment are without merit.

‘Our staff have demonstrated exemplary commitment throughout the pandemic and they are being paid in accordance with the agreed terms and conditions.

‘As a responsible employer we have various channels for staff to report any issues they may have in the business, which will be carefully looked at without fear for repercussion.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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