First South bus drivers receive cost-of-living payment

First South cost-of-living payment
Credit: Keith Ryall /

Bus drivers employed by First South have been awarded a £600 one-off cost-of-living payment, ending strike action planned for this month.

Following negotiations led by trade union Unite on behalf of its members, First South agreed to make a lump sum payment to the workers in a discussion that was separate from ongoing pay talks.

As a result, industrial action involving 185 employees that was due to begin on Friday 25 August and continue until the early hours of Tuesday 29 August has been called off. The strike would have affected bus routes across the Solent area, including Portsmouth, Southampton, Cosham, Fareham, Gosport and Paulsgrove.

According to Unite, the dispute was a result of First South refusing to make a reasonable cost-of-living payment to its workers on low wages. Drivers are paid £12 an hour, while the lowest earners receive £11.03 an hour.

Simon Goff, managing director for First South, which operates First Solent, said: “First Solent are pleased to have collectively agreed a resolution with Unite that ensured the planned industrial action has been called off. It is important to note that strike action was not as a result of First Solent refusing to make a cost-of-living payment to our workers. In fact, all drivers had already been given a £47 weekly retention payment, and the dispute centred over 11 supervisors and other support staff who were not eligible for the weekly driver’s retention payment due to having different roles within our business.

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“However, a deal was reached for those members of staff in recognition of creating pay parity amongst our people. As a responsible employer, we continue to review all pay and conditions as part of our normal process.”

Sharon Graham, general secretary at Unite, added: “Our members took a stand and First South returned to the negotiating table and made an offer that workers were prepared to accept. Unite will build on this deal in further pay negotiations at First South.”