Glasgow 2014: New bus strike ordered by union

A NEW strike ballot at bus operator First Glasgow was ordered by the Unite union today after engineers rejected a pay offer, weeks before the start of the Commonwealth Games.

Unite have ordered a new strike ballot after engineers rejected a pay offer. Picture: TSPL

Unite said the staff had voted by 145 to three against the 1.2 per cent deal.

Union leaders had recommended approval of the offer following negotiations at the conciliation service Acas last week, which led to an original strike vote being suspended.

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However, Unite said workers had later been angered at the subsequent revelation that FirstGroup chief executive Tim O’Toole’s pay package would double to £2 million.

The firm will play a major role in transporting spectators to Games events from 23 July, with ticket holders receiving free travel on buses and trains.

Unite regional industrial officer Eddie Duffy said: “This resounding rejection by the First Glasgow engineers should serve as a wake-up call to the company and the local managing director, Fiona Kerr.

“Last week’s revelations that executive pay at FirstGroup shot through the roof while our members were being consulted on a meagre 1.2 per cent pay offer proved the final straw for a proud workforce that is steeped in the best traditions of the Glasgow bus industry.

“For years, they have worked through below-inflation pay awards to help sustain the company’s Glasgow operations, but with such pay disparity being so publicly flaunted when many of our members are struggling to keep up with the basic cost of living, it’s little wonder anger is intensifying.

“Our message to Fiona Kerr and FirstGroup is this: to avoid strike action, come back with a fair pay offer that meets the expectations of this workforce because it’s clear the finance is there to do so.”

First Glasgow have since issued a statement, saying: “In a consultative ballot engineers have decided not to accept a pay award tabled by First Glasgow, despite a recommendation from Unite the Union’s leadership that members accept the offer. Unite the Union has said it will now ballot members for industrial action, but has also now agreed to further talks.

Fiona Kerr, managing director of First Glasgow, said: “We are surprised and disappointed that engineers have rejected our offer despite their union’s recommendation that they accept. The 1.2 per cent offer was one that Unite themselves tabled when they were already aware of executive pay at plc board level, and to which after discussion we agreed.

“Indeed we had proposed a number of options including offering the security of a pay increase for each of the next two years, but these were rejected by Unite the Union in favour of recommending the offer that was then tabled with our employees.

“We are operating in a very challenging market in Glasgow, put under extra pressure by cuts in funding and increasing costs. In the last two years we have taken hard decisions to close a depot and to implement a two year wage freeze for many of our drivers. We are simply not prepared to fund a pay award for engineers by asking customers to pay higher fares, or to jeopardise long term job security.

“First Glasgow remains fully committed to a successful Commonwealth Games and our preparations to achieve that continue, despite the continued threats of Unite.”

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