Aberdeen bus drivers fear ongoing row over new contracts could lead to ‘serious incident or accident’

Bus drivers recently protested at First Aberdeen's King Street depot

Stress caused by a contract dispute with a firm may lead to a serious incident – according to Aberdeen bus drivers.

Discussions have been ongoing for a number of weeks between First Bus and employees over new terms for drivers.

It has been claimed that if the new contracts are forced upon staff it would lead to benefits being slashed, longer working hours and less holiday entitlement.

Bus drivers recently staged a protest outside the firm’s King Street depot against the new deal.

A joint statement on behalf of First Aberdeen drivers said they were worried about an unsafe working environment being created.

The group has written to Andrew Jarvis, managing director of the firm, asking management to take a step back as drivers feel a serious accident may happen due to their minds being elsewhere.

The letter said: “We as a group have to tell you that we feel pressurised, stressed, tired, angry and also very anxious for all our families’ futures.

“We therefore are personally urging you to take a very large step back in things to let both ourselves and our families breathe in all this before a serious incident or accident occurs due to worried minds being elsewhere.”

The letter states that Mr Jarvis was invited to meet a delegation of drivers and their families to understand what they may lose with the implementation of the new contract. Unite represents 347 drivers at the company and in a ballot last month 98.4% opted to turn down the contracts. Only four members voted for the deal.

The letter also states: “If you insist on going ahead with any scheduled one-to-one meetings in the coming weeks we simply won’t attend them due to the stress we are being put under in all this.”

David Phillips, operations director at First Aberdeen, said the company was undertaking individual consultations to get drivers’ “thoughts, concerns and feelings about the situation”.

He added that “the new terms and conditions are not something that we have entered into lightly” and were “absolutely necessary given the current economic climate in Aberdeen”.

Mr Phillips said: “Our managing director Andrew Jarvis is currently on holiday, so in terms of the invitation to meet the aforementioned delegation, I would be happy to take the meeting in Andrew’s absence to discuss any concerns the drivers may have.

“But as I have said, it is vital that we respect the ongoing process of consultations and that forum really is the best place to have these views and opinions heard and considered by management.

“We have made our employees aware of our employee assistance support line, which is staffed by independent professional counsellors, and additionally our managers operate an open door policy if employees wish to raise any concerns that they may have outside of the process.”