THE island’s bus drivers have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action in the run up to Christmas.
Unite union members voted 90 per cent to take strike action over increased driving time and the reduction of contractual hours from 42 to 37.
The strike action by Unite members will consist of a three-day stoppage on Thursday, December 20, Friday, December 21 and Saturday, December 22.
Unite national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton said: ‘This is a serious step for our members to take – strike action is a last resort.
‘Unite members are prepared to match any cuts in terms and conditions that civil servants at the government’s Department of Community Culture and Leisure would make to cut the deficit - yet they have not been asked to contribute - this is totally unfair.
‘DCCL needs to stop burying its head in the sand and get back around the table to avoid causing massive disruption to shoppers and local businesses on the island in the run up to Christmas.
‘Unless DCCL see sense and take part in meaningful negotiations, this action will go ahead next week.’
The bus drivers have been involved in a long-running dispute over Manx government’s attempts to change terms and conditions, including the loss of paid lunch breaks . The union says the changes will result in drivers’ wages being cut by up to £3,000-a-year.
Bus Vannin issued contractual notice of up to a maximum 90-days notice of termination of employment and a minimum of two weeks for employees of one or two years service - which ran out on October 25- to sign the new contract or have their jobs terminated.
Unite says 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.
The Department of Education and Children said schools would remain open until the last day of term – Friday, December 21.
It has been making contingency plans, including the building of a temporary train station for Castle Rushen High School in Castletown.
The strike is bound to cause the police some concern on Friday night, called ‘Black-eye Friday’ by some. The last Friday before Christmas is one of the busiest of the year as people finish work and go out with friends and colleagues from work.
If there are no buses, the taxis are likely to be overwhelmed.
Shoppers, who’d planned to travel by bus for the last Saturday before Christmas will also have their plans disrupted.