Bus drivers in the Isle of Man are to hold a ballot for strike action, their union announced this morning (Tuesday).
The drivers have refused to accept changes to their terms and conditions, including the end of paid lunch breaks.
The union says that’s worth about £3,000 a year.
The nationalised bus company, Bus Vannin, has 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. The deadline the drivers have been given is Thursday (October 25). If they don’t agree they will lose their jobs.
The basic salary of the drivers – who number about 100 – is about £24,300, but that can be boosted by overtime. Indeed, the politician in charge of the bus service, Graham Cregeen MHK, told Tynwald last week that drivers were paid an average of between £30,000 and £45,000, including overtime.
In the UK, bus drivers get paid less. In Bristol, for example, advertisements on buses for drivers say that they could earn ‘£18,000-plus’.
The Office of National Statistics in the UK reported that, in 2011, the median pay for a bus or coach driver was £21,563.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: ‘The Isle of Man is one of the few oases of prosperity in the British Isles, but the Manx government is intent on aggressive salami-slicing the terms and conditions of our members.
‘Our members are realistic and are prepared for a fair negotiated settlement – Unite has even offered to go to binding arbitration with an independent third party chair, but that has been rejected out-of-hand by the intransigent employers.
‘If the strike goes ahead, it will cause great inconvenience to the public, but our members feel that they have been targeted for pay cuts, while the civil servants at the government’s Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, who are the puppeteers behind this, recently had a pay increase.
‘The civil servants are not making any contribution to the cuts they say are needed – quite the contrary, they are expecting the drivers to bear the brunt – and this is unfair.
‘We estimate that our members will lose between £2,500 - £3,000-a-year – and this not acceptable to a dedicated workforce who have bills to pay and families to feed.’
Unite will announce the time table for the ballot at a later date.
While the Isle of Man is still enjoying economic growth, government income from taxation has dropped significantly.
When the full impact of the end of the previous VAT agreement with the UK is felt, the Manx taxman will have about one third less money to spend.
Bus Vannin is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.
As the Manx Independent revealed earlier this month, civil servants and members of Tynwald have been awarded a 20p-an-hour rise.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 26 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
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Wind direction: South west