Bus drivers to be balloted for strike

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THE island’s bus drivers will be balloted for strike action on Wednesday (November 28), the Unite union has confirmed.

Some 100 Bus Vannin drivers will vote on whether to strike over increased driving time and the reduction of contractual hours from 42 to 37. The ballot closes on Wednesday, December 12.

It’s the latest move in a dispute over changes to their terms and conditions which the union says will cut drivers’ wages by about £3,000 a year.

Notices of termination of their existing contracts were issued to drivers on October 13. Since then, about a third have agreed to new terms and conditions which include an end to paid lunch breaks.

Unite blamed the Department of Community Culture and Leisure for the dispute reaching this stage.

The union’s national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton said: ‘The employer’s continual intransigence is responsible for this dispute getting to the stage where we are balloting our members.

‘Unite has bent over backwards to achieve a fair and equitable settlement. We have, once again, offered to go to binding arbitration with an independent third party chair. But we have been met with a wall of silence from the employer, who appears to be intent on unnecessary confrontation and causing disruption to bus passengers on the island.

‘We estimate that our members will lose between £2,500 to £3,000 a year because of the cuts in their contractual hours and other imposed changes. This is not acceptable to a dedicated workforce who have bills to pay and families to feed.’

Unite said the basic salary of the drivers is about £24,300, but can be boosted by overtime. DCCL Minister Graham Cregeen has said the basic salary is £28,000 and drivers are paid an average of £30,000 to £45,000, including overtime.

In a written reply to a Tynwald question last week, Mr Cregeen said the bus drivers were first awarded the allowance of a paid lunch break following a decision by the then Tourism and Leisure Minister David Cretney in July 2001.

Review of this payments was part of a package of measures that bought out a number of historic practices, including payment of sickness at 60 hours a week and annual leave payments at time and a third. The review resulted in an increase of almost 14 per cent to drivers’ pay.

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