'Chaos' fear for thousands of music fans as tram strike set to hit Sheffield's Tramlines Festival
Sheffielders fear a strike by tram workers will 'cause chaos' for thousands of revellers set to descend on the city for the Tramlines Festival this weekend.
Drivers and conductors who work for Stagecoach Supertram are set to take part in 72-hour strike action planned between Friday, July 20, and Sunday, July 22, in a dispute over pay.
This coincides with the 10th annual Tramlines Festival which used to be centered around venues in and around the city centre area but will take place for the first time this year at the 40, 000 capacity Hillsborough Park.
As the venue is about three miles out of the city centre, public transport is expected to be packed with thousands of fans making their way to and from the site.
With news of the strike action, some music fans have taken to Twitter to criticise the strike action and express concern that there could be transport problems on what will be one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Emma Baylis posted: "This is going to cause chaos."
.Another Twitter user called Shelley added: "Disgraceful targeting of Tramlines to cause maximum chaos in the first year at Hillsborough Park.
"Don't the union members care about the massive amount of cash the city will lose, the citizens of Sheffield or the organisers?"
David Simmonite said he "respects everyone's right to strike" but added that he "doesn't think it is the right action. No sympathy from me now."
Stagecoach Supertram said there will still be a limited service running at the weekend between 7am and 7pm and timetable details are due to be released later today.
Earlier this month, Tim Bilby, managing director of Supertram, accused Unite, which has organised the strike action, of "deliberately targeted young people and the Tramlines festival."
He added: "It clearly has no thought for the impact on local people and the local economy, which gets a Â£9 million benefit from the Tramlines festival every year."
Unite said Stagecoach Supertram workers deserve a fair pay rise which reflects their hard work.
They previously tabled an "aspirational" offer of 50p an hour extra for drivers and a 60p an hour rise for conductors.
But this was rejected by Stagecoach who instead offered a pay rise offer of 26p an hour.
This was in turn turned down by the union resulting in the deadlock.
Steve Clark, Unite regional officer, said: "We could not accept the 26p an hour offer.
"Workers on the minimum wage have got a 33p an hour pay rise which means we are 7p an hour behind.
"At that rate our members could end up on the minimum wage in the future."
He said there is currently no new date set for a meeting with Stagecoach Supertram bosses but urged them to get round the negotiating table with an "open mind" about increasing their offer.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach Supertram said today: "Despite last minute talks and a further revised offer being tabled with higher pay in Year 1 and inflation (CPI) in Year 2 with a minimum 2 per cent guarantee for that year, it is disappointing that strike action will still take place this weekend.
We have said before that any pay deal needs to be realistic and we are at the very limit of what is affordable."