Optare made bus, behind a fence
Optare bus. Image credit via charles cars, CC BY 2.0.

On Monday 14th December, Unite announced that strike action at bus manufacturer Optare, which began in October 2020 over ‘broken promises’ to raise hourly wages to match the industry standard, will continue into January.

In August 2019, the leading bus-maker, which is owned by the three multi-billionaire Hinduja brothers, pledged to raise pay after criticism that hourly rates fell far behind that of comparable firms. However, since November last year, the firm has repeatedly postponed pay negotiations, leading to Unite members taking strike action until the firm fulfil their promise and rescind their ‘point blank refusal’ to pay staff a fair wage.

Optare workers had agreed to the deferral of negotiations on numerous occasions in the year before strike action was decided upon, but they say their loyalty and good faith in their employer’s intention was met with nothing but further delays and a failure to support their staff amidst an incredibly challenging year. As a result, over 100 Optare workers voted 73% in favour of the strike action in October 2020.

Further discontinuous strike action will begin at Optare’s Sherburn in Elmet factory on 21 December and will last until 5 January 2021.

Previous strikes at the site in November saw North Yorkshire police move on striking workers, using lockdown regulations as the excuse. This led to Unite succesfully bringing a legal action which confirmed that strike pickets were lawful during lockdown.

Speaking about the strike, Unite regional officer Richard Bedford stated:

“Striking in the middle of winter, especially over the festive period and during a pandemic, is not something they want to do but have been forced to do. Optare must now realise that their workforce will not give in and that a compromise must be found.”

“This dispute can be brought quickly to an end if Optare returns to the negotiations with a reasonable offer that our members, who are paid below industry standards despite their hard work and loyalty, can accept.”

Optare have been contacted for comment.