Greater Manchester is facing severe traffic disruption beginning later this month after Metrolink tram drivers voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay.
The 300-plus drivers and supervisors, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, recorded a 97 per cent yes vote in favour of industrial action after being told of a ‘pitiful’ one per cent pay award, a real terms cut given that inflation is running at nearly four times that figure.
The first strike days will be Saturday 25 September and Sunday 26 September. These coincide with the match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on the Saturday, and the Great Manchester Run the following day when all competitors and spectators have been advised to use public transport due to extensive road closures in the centre of Manchester.
The tram drivers will also take strike action on Sunday 10 October, the day of the Manchester marathon when the advice again is to use public transport.
A further strikes have been called for Sunday 24 October when Manchester United and Liverpool are due to play.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “One minute tram drivers are being hailed as heroes and the next they are facing a real terms pay cut.
“Unite will not allow our members to have their pay and living standards eroded by private companies who are seeking to profit by operating a public service.”
Unite could announce further strike action on weekdays before, between and after the dates already announced depending on the response of management.
The strike action is a result of a ‘pitiful’ offer that the workforce received following months of negotiations. The workers were offered a 0.3 per cent backdated pay increase for the period from January to March 2021 followed by a 0.7 per cent increase from April 2021 to April 2022.
The one per cent pay increase for a 15 month period would in reality be a large pay cut in real terms as the RPI inflation rate currently stands at 3.8 per cent.
Metrolink is operated and maintained by a joint venture company Keolis/Amey which holds the contract to run the Transport for Greater Manchester-owned service.
Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said: “Metrolink tram workers, who continued to work throughout the pandemic, are simply not going to accept a frankly pitiful one per cent pay deal.
“Unite has been seeking to resolve this matter for six months without success and our members now believe that as a last resort they have no other option but to take strike action.
“Strike action and the inevitable disruption that will bring can still be averted if management returns to the negotiating table with a realistic pay offer.
“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”
TfGM’s Head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, said: “It’s disappointing that members have voted in favour of industrial action, and I would appeal to both sides to work together to find a resolution, while there is still time.
“There is no good time for strike action, but the days picked will impact on participants and spectators of some very significant and much-welcome events, which have returned to Manchester post-covid.
“Our priority will be to limit disruption as much as possible and we will work with KAM and other transport operators to make sure people can still enjoy these events, even if Metrolink services are not running on those days.
“Plans are still being developed, but we are committed to letting people know what services will be running, if any, and what alternative transport options will be available in the event of any strike as soon as possible.”