First Bus drivers vote for two days of strike action
MORE than 350 bus drivers in Edinburgh have voted to hold two days of strike action - just weeks after a separate industrial dispute hit the Capital.
The First Bus drivers have opted to walk out next Wednesday and the following Tuesday, September 13, in a bid to earn higher wages.
They will also start an overtime ban from next week, reducing the number of buses on other days.
The move will have a major effect on commuters living in outlying areas, such as West and East Lothian, where First Bus is often the only source of public transport for people travelling to Edinburgh. The company runs around 300 services in and around the Capital.
Drivers with First earn almost 1.40 less per hour less than Lothian Buses drivers, who voted for three one-day strikes last month, throwing services into chaos.
One industry insider said the 12 per cent deal, spread over two years, which ended that particular dispute had angered First Bus drivers, who now want a similar rise. It is understood around 96 per cent of drivers balloted in central Scotland and Edinburgh supported strike action, but there will be no industrial action in the Borders. The Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) wants its members to earn 8 an hour - just over an eight per cent increase - but so far the firm has only offered a 3.2 per cent increase.
Shop stewards will meet with First Bus management tomorrow for last-minute talks aimed at ending the damaging dispute. The meeting follows more than a week of uncertainty after the union declined to reveal the result of the ballot.
Juliette Turner, operations director of First Scotland East, said strike action is "unnecessary and will achieve nothing".
She said: "First of all, I'd like to apologise to our customers for the uncertainty of the situation, but we have only just received the result of the ballot for both the central [Scotland] and Edinburgh business units.
"The company has made a very fair offer within its means and has done everything possible to avoid any loss of services. I still hope that we can avoid an overtime ban and a strike.
"We have a meeting with union representatives on Thursday with that objective in mind. No-one will win if industrial action goes ahead. Our customers will suffer and our drivers will lose money. I hope we can negotiate a settlement this week."
Last month, a pay row between Lothian Buses and the T&G resulted in three one-day strikes, and then a damaging wildcat strike earlier this month left some passengers stranded on city streets.
The union finally accepted a pay rise of 12 per cent over two years, with drivers earning 8.78 until December. This offer was supported by members in a ballot, but only by 57.6 per cent of drivers. First Bus drivers currently earn 7.40 per-hour.
One industry insider said people living in West and East Lothian will be worst affected by strike action.
He said: "There are a lot of outlying areas where First is the only company that provides public transport to the Capital.
"People in towns such as Bathgate and North Berwick will be hit hard by this."
A spokeswoman for the T&G said: "Members have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, which is indicative of the strength of feeling they have about improving pay.
"We intend to meet with the company and if they want to avert industrial action, we urge them to improve their offer."
WARNING CITY WILL 'STAGNATE' WITHOUT TRAMS
TRADERS in Edinburgh have been warned the city will "stagnate" unless they support the reintroduction of trams.
One of Ireland's leading business experts said the Scottish capital will become one of the most successful cities in Europe if it has the modern public transport infrastructure he believes a new tram system will provide.
Tom Coffey, chief executive of the Dublin City Business Association, predicted trams will also turn Edinburgh into an even more "vibrant" place to live.
He was speaking at a conference attended by business representatives from the Capital yesterday morning, just weeks before the parliamentary Bills for the Capital's two tram lines enter their final stage.
The 473 million trams project, which still faces a 98m shortfall, could get Royal assent as early as this December, and could be up and running by 2009.
The controversial scheme has been attacked by some businesses, fearful of around four years of disruption during construction.
In Dublin, the Luas light rail system has won over sceptical businesses and is now set for further expansion.
Mr Coffey said the trams have increased footfall in the city centre's shopping district by 35 per cent, and property prices near the routes have rocketed by 15 per cent.
He added: "There were people who were fearful
but the benefits are there for people to see and the Luas has helped Dublin turn into a modern 21st century city.
"It is important that any city evolves, otherwise it will just stagnate. Edinburgh must look to the future."
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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