Yorkshire-based bus builder Optare says it has put in place contingency plans to maintain production and to deliver orders, despite the decision of the Unite union to take industrial action that will disrupt production already impacted by COVID-19.
The company intends to fulfill its orders and has plans in place to manage through the period of industrial action and remains focused on its turnaround plans to return Optare to sustainable profitability.
The company is also urging the Unite union to reconsider demands for a pay rise at a time when other automotive manufacturers are cutting thousands of jobs.
Pay rise demands at Optare follow a period in which the company has maintained employment and paid furloughed production workers with 100% of their contractual pay, while management took salary cuts to help preserve the financial well-being of the company, adds Optare.
Optare employs 330 people, of which 161 (including 29 full-time equivalents) are engaged in bus production. It says that only 16% (equivalent to 53 people) in the whole organisation voted to stop work.
Graham Belgum, CEO (pictured) said: “As a company we respect the decision that was made yesterday by union members to take industrial action – although we can’t deny that we are disappointed by the outcome.
“A rolling programme of stoppages and strike action during the Covid pandemic whilst we prepare for the turnaround of Optare to put the business on a firm financial footing is unhelpful.
“Furthermore, by striking, our hard-working employees risk losing wages that we have preserved throughout the COVID lockdowns, at a time when we must continue to meet demand from our customers.
“This is a pivotal moment for Optare as as we continue to invest in the future of the company to get through this extraordinary situation.
“Our parent company has supported this business over the past few years with more than £100m of investment and we must continue to weather this storm.
“We remain determined to continue to keep our workforce employed and safe and we retain a real willingness to continue to engage with the union and reach a potential solution.”
Mr Belgum and senior executives at Optare met yesterday with union representatives following a vote in which only 16% of the whole organisation voted to stop work.
He vowed to meet customer orders to the standard that bus operators continue to expect.
Optare is a leading British manufacturer of urban buses with a modern assembly facility on Sherburn, near Leeds, Yorkshire.
Its award-winning range of buses feature an integral design, zero emission electric drives and low emission efficient diesel drivetrains utilising the latest low carbon technology.
The Optare Group Limited is part of Ashok Leyland, one of the world’s top three bus producers, and part of the Hinduja Group.