Blackpool tram and bus drivers could strike during the town’s illuminations after two colleagues were suspended for being ‘too fat’. Photograph: Alamy
Industrial action could halt Blackpool buses and trams, affecting thousands of tourists enjoying the town’s illuminations, after two bus drivers were suspended from work for being “too fat”.
Colleagues are threatening to walk out after the pair were told to lose 3kg (7lb) within a month.
Both were suspended and barred from the red and yellow-striped fleet when their weight reached around 20 stone, apparently too much for the relatively cramped cabins and seats.
Bus managers claim the buses are too small for any driver weighing more than 19 stone.
Industrial action could involve up to 400 staff in Blackpool, whose tourist industry is dependent on public transport.
Similar concerns in Bristol led to 11 workers of First Bus taking a company-sponsored health programme to lose weight last year. The drivers’ weight ranged from 15 to 28 stone.
The Blackpool Labour group leader, Councillor Simon Blackburn, accused Blackpool Transport of acting in a “cavalier fashion”.
He told the company’s board that managers should be more supportive rather than simply taking disciplinary action.
“The role of a tram or bus driver is naturally sedentary, and there must be better ways of managing issues such as this,” he said. “It is not for your boss to tell anyone that they have to lose weight.”
Both Blackpool Transport and the employees’ union, Unite, said they aimed to reach an agreement on what both deemed a “personal, sensitive issue”, but hopes of a solution were dashed two hours of talks.
Discussions will go into a second day tomorrow.
Blackpool Transport’s managing director, Trevor Roberts, said: “Following professional medical advice, the company is dealing with some sensitive and personal issues confidentially and through internal procedures, so that our customers and staff are not put at risk.”
Unite’s regional organiser, John Boughton, said the union would be asking for the immediate reinstatement of the two men.
He said: “I hope we can all sit round the table and talk about this sensibly.”
Industrial action would threaten unwelcome disruption in Blackpool. The Lancashire seaside resort has been struggling to reinvent itself of late following accusations of tackiness and complaints about too many drunken stag and hen parties.
The loss of both the Labour and Conservative party conferences has also been a blow.
The town’s illuminations, created to extend the summer holiday season into the autumn, are at the height of their run, which began in early September and stops at the end of the first week in November.
They include trams on fishing, space rocket and Wild West themes, decked out with strings of lights.