Bus drivers revolt over ‘insulting’ festive lunch offer as bosses get bonuses

Ian Craig has come under fire for the Christmas lunch offer
Ian Craig has come under fire for the Christmas lunch offer
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ANGRY bus drivers have shunned an “insulting” offer of a free Christmas lunch – in protest at bumper bonuses handed to their bosses.

Staff at Lothian Buses are given Christmas treat lunch vouchers worth £3.50 as a festive bonus, but the move has backfired this year as it comes after the publication of large cash bonuses to management.

The staff lunch voucher

The staff lunch voucher

Top brass at Lothian Buses were paid £175,000 in bonuses for 2011-12, with nearly £50,000 handed to managing director Ian Craig.

One double-decker driver said: “Many people don’t get anything so we realise we’re lucky to get our dinner. We just think it shows a grim irony. The management are among the highest paid in the country, but this is all they can afford to give us. It’s disgusting. They’d have been better giving us 

The News can reveal a number of drivers have handed back the vouchers, which come with a warning that there is “no cash alternative”. One employee said at least 30 drivers at one depot had rejected the gesture, which entitles the bearer to a £3.50 Christmas lunch or a main course alternative, such as pie and chips, worth less than £3.

Another worker said: “It shows how out of touch with the workforce they’ve become.”

Another employee – who did not wish to be named - said: “There’s a lot of ill-feeling. We get a newsletter praising staff for their hard work during all the roadworks and everything else, and if it wasn’t for us the company couldn’t run. We’re on the front line getting grief for delays and then we’re handed this voucher. It’s a joke.”

A spokesperson for Lothian Buses said the firm was unable to say how many of the vouchers had been handed back.

The reward offer comes after the News revealed that managing director Ian Craig was paid a £47,200 bonus on top of his £160,000 salary. Bonuses were paid in previous years but never made public.

Added to other benefits, it took his annual pay in 2011-12 to £208,100 – more than the Prime Minister, First Minister or Scottish High Court judges.

But Rab Fraser, branch chairman for the Unite union at Lothian Buses, backed the lunch offer.

He said: “The suggestion that the company makes a goodwill, free Christmas lunch gesture at this time of year for all staff was suggested by us at Unite three years ago. This was supported by the management of Lothian Buses at the time, and has been each year since.”

Shaun Burnett, head of marketing and communications at Lothian Buses, said: “We are pleased to confirm that we are doing this [lunch offer] again and feedback from staff is that it is a popular initiative.”

‘The staff are worth more’

Do you get a bonus, and what do you think of the drivers’ case?

Kamil Zolkowski, 26, an accountant working in Holyrood, said he is “pretty happy” with his bonus but sympathised with the bus drivers: “It’s unfair. It’s like with taxes, there’s a pyramid and the managers are at the top.”

David Leacock, 31, an accountant from Stockbridge, will receive his bonus in January: “I haven’t seen it yet, so we’ll see if I’m happy. It’s hard to put a value to what they [bus drivers] do, but it’s definitely more than a voucher.”

Shawn Brown, 42, a chef from Marchmont, has received “the odd bottle of vodka or tin of sweeties” in the past. He did not think the bus drivers’ bonuses were fair: “It’s horrible. The drivers are excellent.”

Mora Gilchrist, 23, from Colinton, works as a carer: “I’ve never got a bonus in my life. They [the drivers] work hard. They’re the ones that put up with the public.”

‘It’s a question of the differential’

THE wealth gap between chief executives and shopfloor workers has never been so high. Twenty years ago boardroom big wigs were getting 230 times the salary of a normal full time paid worker. That’s risen to 580 times according to Bloomberg data released last night.

But what does such a wide pay-gulf do for staff morale? Professor Cary Cooper CBE (pictured), a renowned academic in organisational psychology and visiting Professor at Heriot Watt University, explains: “Handing out large bonuses or salaries to senior people, particular in difficult times like now, leads to low morale and resentment among the workforce. This is especially the case now when staff are being reduced and the workload is increasing.

“It’s all a question of the differential. You would think common sense would tell you in our day and age that the differential should between the highest and lowest earners should be relatively modest, but it’s not always the case. This should be the case in the good times but now people are extra sensitive to differentials in earnings. Look at the bonuses to people in the City, by shareholders.

“ If there are bonuses they should be shared by everyone and not just the people at the top. You won’t improve morale if the senior people line their own pockets and don’t share the success with everyone.”