STRIKING bus drivers are deliberately targeting school children taking exams, the Minister in charge of the island’s public transport network claims.
Community, Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen issued a strongly worded statement, attacking the leadership of the Unite union after it was confirmed that the next bus strike will take place on Wednesday, March 6, with two two-hour stoppages due to be held at 7.30am and 3pm.
The move came after a mass meeting of bus drivers voted unanimously in favour of stepping up their industrial action.
Mr Cregeen hit out at the time of the latest strike. He said: ‘This strike takes place during the morning and afternoon peak periods and is clearly going to impact school children and their parents.
‘Once again, there appears to be an attempt to target young people taking exams – hundreds will be affected at a time when they should be concentrating on their education, not their travel.
‘Operations for the full day will be heavily impacted, but contingencies will be put in place and announcements made shortly.’
The Minister continued: ‘This latest strike action is clearly being driven by the Unite the Union leadership in the UK who do not seem to appreciate or care about the severity of the economic challenges facing us here in the Isle of Man.
‘Last week’s budget announcement clearly showed that the department’s financial position for the next three years and whilst we are flexible about how targets are met, the overall saving must be the same.
‘Management and on-island representatives were getting very close to a resolution and we believed another ballot would be going to the drivers last week.
‘It now appears that instead of progressing a local solution, we are having to deal with off-island officers who have little interest in solving local problems.
‘No more talks have taken place and we have received further notice of strike action. As I have said on many occasions striking does not strengthen the drivers’ position – it only reduces their pay and causes disruption for the most vulnerable bus users.’
Unite union members voted overwhelmingly in December in favour of industrial action in a long-running dispute over changes to their terms and conditions, including the loss of paid lunch breaks.
The first of the strikes took place in the run-up to Christmas with a three-day stoppage.
This was followed by a half-day strike in January and last weekend a 10-minute stoppage took place in the early hours of Saturday.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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