MOST First buses around Weymouth and west Dorset will be running as normal today despite a drivers’ strike.

About 60 drivers who are members of the Unite union working for First Hampshire and Dorset at Weymouth and Bridport depots are striking for 24 hours from 4.30am this morning, January 20.

In Bridport a picket line was in place at the bus station.

First is confident it can run almost a full service despite the action.

Unite, the country’s largest union which represents the drivers, said the dispute centres on the pay of the drivers, currently on £8.30 an hour, compared with their regional colleagues, such as drivers at Yellow Buses in Bournemouth who earn more £10 an hour.

The management has offered a 1.5 per cent increase for April 2013-April 2014 – but the company wants to ‘claw back’ that rise by eroding terms and conditions, such as reduced sick pay, so the deal is self-financing, says the union.

It said the deal now on the table offered no back pay, and that management also wanted to start the pay year on July 1 which was ‘moving the goalposts’ by three months.

Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said: “Our members are some of the lowest paid bus drivers in the country.

“This is the first time that our members have gone on strike for 12 years at this company. They are being pushed against the wall financially by the cost of living crisis, which has seen household bills soar.

“The strike will cause disruption, which we regret, however, the ball is in the management’s court – and we are prepared to talk if there is genuine ‘new’ money on the table.”

Managing Director for First Hampshire and Dorset Marc Reddy said the 1.5 per cent which had been offered had already been accepted favourably by other employees in Dorset.

He said the company remained open to further discussions with drivers.

He added: “While it is disappointing and frustrating that some of our drivers have chosen to go on strike, we’ve worked behind the scenes and I am pleased we are able to operate practically a full service on Monday.”

First says services 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 47 and 387 will operate as normal.

Service 31 will run between Dorchester South and Axminster from 7am-7pm. Weymouth passengers should use Service 10, changing at Dorchester.

Only one service X53 will operate, leaving Lyme Regis at 6.40am and going to Weymouth College and King’s Statue.

All school and college buses are scheduled to operate including 753 Beaminster to Weymouth College and return.

First is making special fares available for Monday only with single tickets between Weymouth, Dorchester and Portland costing £1.50 and £3 for a day ticket.

Passengers are advised to check First’s website before travelling or see its Twitter or Facebook sites for any changes.