First Group, which has a near monopoly on the inner city buses in Bristol, has recently increased its attacks on bus drivers.
In just ten days, 14 have been sacked and nearly one in four of all drivers are now on a final written warning for running the buses early.
Drivers with previously clean records and up to 30 years service have been sacked for buses being just four or five minutes early.
More drivers have been summoned into the office this week and the numbers of disciplinaries looks set to rise.
Clearly drivers are wondering if they will be next.
With management now discipling drivers for early running going back to early January, nobody can be sure if they will still be in a job next week.
The correct disciplinary procedures, agreed with the union, have not been followed.
Timings have been taken without entering the bus to see what time the driver is running to.
Drivers at First have already set up canteen collections to support the sacked drivers until they win their jobs back.
A recent angry T&G union meeting to discuss the situation was packed out.
Drivers had to wait in the corridors as the room was too full to get everyone into the biggest meeting room in the union’s Transport House!
Union full-timers were left in no doubt that action is needed now. Preparations for a strike ballot are underway.
First is clearly rattled and has even asked inspectors and agency staff if they would cross picket lines – they replied that they wouldn’t!
I worked for First for nearly six years and recently resigned because I had suffered enough of management’s attitude.
Only the management knows the reasons for this latest attack, but from experience I’m guessing it’s one of a few things.
As soon as it got close to full staffing, which only happened twice while I was there, any flexibility went and sackings started, although never close to this scale.
At the moment the company is close to full staffing.
More importantly I think it is due to the fact that the contracts for bus services are coming up.
First has a very poor reliability record in Bristol. Recently a rival company has started in the city that has the financial ability to challenge First for bus routes.
This, combined with First being fined again for poor service, has forced them to be seen to act.
They could do many things to improve the service.
They could improve the fleet so fewer buses break down, they could put more buses on to allow extra time to compensate for late running due to traffic congestion.
They could put inspectors on the buses during rush hours to speed up passengers getting on and off.
However, these measures would put a dent in First Group’s £157 million profits, whereas sacking drivers doesn’t.
But the drivers are angry and more organised than at any time I’ve known.