THE minister in charge of the bus network said he is still hopeful a negotiated settlement can be reached with the drivers over the issue of pay.
And he refused to give details in Tynwald of any contingency arrangements for a possible strike because he did not wish to ‘inflame’ the situation.
Graham Cregeen MHK, Minister for Community, Culture and Leisure, had been asked by Middle MHK Howard Quayle about whether he has prepared a contingency plan to maintain this ‘vital public service should the problem escalate to industrial action’.
Mr Cregeen replied: ‘The department still remains hopeful that it can reach a negotiated settlement with the drivers on this issue of their pay.
‘The department has been in negotiations with the union since March 1, 2012 and cannot afford to let the matter remain unresolved indefinitely.
‘However, it is clearly a very significant and serious issue and I hope I have made it clear that my department will continue to try and find a negotiated solution to this situation until the very last moment.’
He added: ‘I can confirm that my department is aware of the need for contingency plans and to liaise with other departments of government so that the day-to-day business of the people of the Isle of Man can carry on with as little disruption as possible.
‘Members will, I hope, understand that I do not wish to provide detailed briefing on the possible arrangements, as I would not wish to inflame any situation which I still hope can be resolved before industrial action is called for.’
He said that the detail of any contingency plan will have to be tailored to meet the impact of any potential difficulties faced but he said all government departments and members of the public would be fully briefed on the options available in the event of disruption to services.
John Houghton (Douglas North) asked how a negotiated settlement could be reached when notice had already been served on all 100 drivers.
Mr Cregeen said there was still time until the first notice period ended. ‘We are looking until October 25,’ he said.
Peter Karran (Lib Van, Onchan) asked for details of drivers’ wage scales and benefits.
The Minister replied that the drivers were paid an average of between £30,000 and £45,000 including overtime. He said the department had removed more than £300,000 worth of managerial and administrative roles already. He said drivers currently had a guaranteed 42-hour week which included five hours of paid lunch.
Under the new terms and conditions which drivers are being asked to agree to, drivers’ lunch breaks will no longer be paid, sick pay will reduce to being based on 37 hours per week and maximum driving time will increase from 3 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours 10 minutes. The Unite union twice recommended acceptance of the new terms but members voted against the offer.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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Temperature: 10 C to 13 C
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