On the first anniversary of the bus drivers’ dispute, a union boss has written to Tynwald members accusing the government of wasting millions - and suggesting public sector workers are paying the price.
In his letter to Chief Minister Allan Bell and all MHKs, Unite’s UK-based national officer for public transport Bobby Morton says he accepts the government has lost £175 million in revenue – a third of its income - following changes to the VAT deal.
He says ‘on the face of it’ this would appear to be ‘sound reasoning’ for cuts in public services.
But he then asks the Chief Minister: ‘Why did the TT marketing campaign which cost in excess of £1 million fail to make the races any more lucrative? Why did the Department of Education create a pupil database costing hundreds of thousands of pounds even though the public had very clearly rejected a centralised pupil database? Why since 2007 has the Isle of Man invested £34m on 13 film productions based on the island and only recouped £6.3m, a net loss of more than £27m?
‘The list of wastage is much longer and I haven’t even mentioned bendy buses.’
Mr Morton points out that whereas public sector workers are taxed up to the rate of 20 per cent, most trading companies pay income tax at 0 per cent on their profits.
‘Which leads me to my final question,’ he writes. ‘Are the public sector workers on the island being made to pay for the errors of the politicians and also for the government’s loss of revenue, rather than the government addressing the issue of taxation?’
In October last year, bus drivers voted overwhelmingly against a deal that would result in them losing their paid lunch breaks and about £3,000 a year from their pay packets. A total of 93 drivers voted against the deal and only one voted in favour - despite the union leadership having recommended acceptance.
Subsequently dismissal notices were sent out to all drivers informing them their current contracts had been terminated and asking them to sign a new contract with the new terms and conditions.
The following month, Unite members voted by a huge majority in favour of industrial action, with the first strike held over three days in the run-up to Christmas. This was followed by a half-day strike in January, two two-hour stoppages in March and a 12 day walk-out during TT.
In August Mr Morton said strikes were taking a toll on drivers and he had advised them to hold back from taking further industrial action for the time being. Unite’s legal director visited the island on Friday to speak to union representatives about a mass employment tribunal claim.
Some 63 drivers are claiming unfair dismissal over changes to terms and conditions.