Another day of bus strikes set to hit Plymouth this week
The union representing bus drivers and engineers has today said they will stage a further 24 hour walk out.
The walk out, which hit First buses in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall, will take place on Thursday, November 15.
The planned walk out could mean that many services across the two counties could be significantly disrupted, and that some may be entirely suspended for 24 hours.
First’s management team has met with the RMT Union on a number of occasions in recent weeks. It tabled another deal on November 2, offering staff a 2% pay increase from 2 December and a further 2.3% increase from April next year – but the company has been informed that this has been rejected by the union.
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The company is now planning to communicate directly with the staff to ensure that the details of the latest offer are put to individual employees.
The company also is considering its options in relation to drawing in external support, having advised the Union representatives who attended the last meeting that if the new offer was rejected that it would call in the services of ACAS to help find a long term solution to the issue.
Chris Bainbridge, Service Delivery Director for First South Coast, said: “We are incredibly disappointed and frustrated that the Union has called for this action for a second time and that they are preparing to walk out again on Thursday 15 November, despite an improved offer being put to our staff.
“This action is deeply regrettable and extremely disappointing, not least because measures like this cause undue disruption and anxiety for hard working people, who rely on our local bus services to get to school, work and leisure destinations.
“As a nation we are all facing tougher times. We have, however, offered the Union a good deal – guaranteeing staff pay rises from December this year and April next year - and yet despite this they are now preparing to strike again.
“The deal that we have put on the table is a very good one. It guarantees drivers and engineers a simple 2% pay increase from 2 December and a further 2.3% increase from April next year, with no changes to the terms and conditions of current staff. We will be writing to all staff to make them fully aware of the latest offer and encourage those who want to accept it, to do so.
“The pay offer on the table adds to an already generous pay and benefits package. On average our drivers earn around ￡17,000 a year with the opportunity to earn much more through overtime, and they also get a generous holiday entitlement, paid sick leave, access to contributory pension schemes, access to an employee assistance programme, access to Share Save and Buy As You Earn saving schemes, free bus travel for staff and their immediate families, reduced price train travel around the UK and access to other discounts at other high street stops and leisure destinations.
“Industrial action benefits no one. Customers are inconvenienced, drivers and engineers lose pay for the days that they do not work and the business suffers as people inevitably find other, alternative ways to get from A to B.
“The bus industry is already facing challenging times, with millions of pounds worth of funding cuts, cost increases affecting all parts of the business and the recession impacting on the number of people using our services, we would expect our staff to work with us to grow the business and make it stronger, rather than undermining efforts in this way by persisting with unnecessary strike action.”
While specific plans are currently being put in place for Thursday’s industrial action, the company hopes to be able to run a similar, or better, level of service to that which it operated on October 26.
In Devon the company hopes to run services to Tavistock School and a reduced Park and Ride Service in Plymouth (with buses running up to every 15 minutes, rather than every 7 minutes on normal days).
All other services are expected to be severely disrupted. Up to date details regarding the disruption will be communicated via the company’s website and via its Facebook and Twitter pages as soon it becomes available.
In light of the planned action, customers who use First bus services are advised to prepare for significant disruption on Thursday and should consider finding alternative ways to make important journeys. Traveline, the organisation which provides independent travel advice, may be able to assist customers looking for information about alternative public transport options.
RMT union General Secretary Bob Crow said: "After the magnificent support for the strike action at the end of October we would have hoped that First Devon and Cornwall management would have come forward with and offer aimed at reaching a solution to this dispute over pay justice.
"The refusal to honour back pay deliberately watered down the value of the deal and that penny-pinching has led us back into strike action this week.
"The strength of feeling amongst the staff remains as strong as it ever was and the determination to secure a fair deal is rock solid amongst the bus workers. First Devon and Cornwall must recognise that and get round the table with us to sort out a deal that properly rewards this key group of transport staff without unacceptable strings and conditions."