THERE would be little support from the public if the bus drivers went on strike, the Chief Minister believes.
Allan Bell said he was ‘very disappointed’ that drivers had overwhelmingly voted to reject new terms and conditions – despite the union leadership recommending the deal.
Community Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen MHK has warned that drivers could lose their jobs if the new terms and conditions are not adopted.
Eric Holmes of the Unite union said the matter was now in the hands of the minister but that a ballot for industrial action could follow if an improved offer wasn’t made.
Under the offer rejected by the Unite membership, 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 three hours 45 minutes to four hours 10 minutes,
Mr Bell said: ‘I felt that relations between the unions and management had improved to the extent that all parties would recognise the very serious challenges facing the department at the moment. There is a need to rebalance some of the terms and conditions not just for bus drivers but right across government.
‘It would not be well received by the wider public if strike action were to be taken, especially as the majority of the workforce are suffering wage freezes and changes to their own terms and conditions.
‘We are doing our very best to rebalance public finances without wholesales reductions across government. We are trying to minimise the pain but overall there does need to be a change of mind-set.’
Mr Bell said he could not influence the situation but hoped that industrial action could be averted.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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