AS it prepares to welcome the world to the International Festival and Fringe, Edinburgh is bracing itself for the effects of a strike by bus drivers that is set to start at 3am on Friday morning.

Talks between management and unions will continue until the last minute if necessary, but preparations are under way for the strike which will see hundreds of drivers stay at home.

In a dispute over pay and alleged bullying, drivers at the city’s municipal bus company, Lothian Buses, have voted to reject a management offer of 2.7% say increase and further measures designed to improve the workplace culture, including bringing in external experts to assist management and the workforce.

Lothian Buses has been hit by poor industrial relations and rows over alleged bullying for some years, and the workforce voted 59.4% in favour of a strike despite Unite the union recommending acceptance of the offer.

Unite regional industrial officer, Lyn Turner, said after the strike vote: “Unite’s 1,700 strong Lothian Buses membership has democratically voted to reject the latest offer from management.

“The depth of feeling from our membership about the toxic management culture speaks for itself. Our members have considered the latest offer too little and too late.

“Unite remains committed to finding a resolution to the dispute and our door remains open for talks but as things stand the action will go ahead on the 2 August. ”

The company says that out of 1,709 union members who were eligible to vote, only 693 voted for strike action, with 1,016 either choosing not to vote or voting against action.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Lothian Buses said, “An accusation of bullying and harassment which had been brought to our attention has already been fully investigated and dealt with appropriately as per our agreed company policies and procedures.

“For this reason, we are disappointed that union members have declined the deal agreed between ourselves and Unite.

“Edinburgh sits centre of the International festival stage and its troubling that Unite has chosen this time to bring about an action that will cause reputational damage to our business, city and country.

“We would appeal to Unite and all our staff to think of the repercussions this may have for the city’s reputation.

“We are still hopeful of a resolution at this stage and will continue working proactively with Unite and our staff to prevent any disruption to service.”

One of Edinburgh’s leading care and support providers confirmed the extent which the strike will affect those requiring social care and support.

Nataly Wilson, founder and chief executive of Social Care Alba, said: “This strike is going to have a serious impact on those that require assistance as 95.7% of our current employees use busses as the main form of transport to travel to and from those needing care, so we can only assume that other carers across the city will be depending on busses too.

“We are working as hard as possible to put provisions in place to ensure that our employees have the alternative travel options, otherwise those that they care for will be left stranded over the weekend.”