Exclusive: Aberdeen bus drivers to stage 11 days of strikes

First Aberdeen bus drivers are to stage 11 days of strikes

Aberdeen bus drivers have called for 11 days of walkouts in a move that could have a major impact on the city’s public transport network.

Trade union Unite is locked in a dispute with First Aberdeen, which provides services across the city, over drivers’ contracts, and members last week overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action.

Now, Unite has announced the action it intends to take.

Beginning on March 16, an overtime ban will come into effect, lasting for 12 weeks.

On the same day, there will be a 24-hour strike.

Further 24-hour strikes will take place on March 19, 21 and 23.

Another strike will then begin on March 25 and last for seven days.

Unite is aiming to step up its action ahead of April 1 as it claims First Aberdeen has told drivers to either sign new contracts by then or lose their jobs. First Aberdeen has not confirmed that is the case.

It is understood that, while the strike will have an impact on the firm’s ability to run a normal service, buses will run.

First Aberdeen’s managing director Andrew Jarvis said: “I would like to assure all customers that, regardless of any upcoming industrial action at the King Street depot, we will still be offering services across our network.

“We are currently planning the exact details of how this will look in the event of industrial action, but we intend to still run frequencies of either hourly or half-hourly across the majority of our routes at the very least.

“We are still finalising this plan, but revised timetables will be communicated before the end of the week.

“Hopefully, this is plenty of time to give customers a reasonable notice of these changes and I would like to thank them in advance for their patience and understanding during this period.

“First Aberdeen is disappointed that union representatives and their members have decided to vote in favour of industrial action.

“Our union colleagues must realise that we are operating in a very challenging economic climate, which has had a negative impact on the business.

“Unfortunately, difficult decisions are having to be made, but the current economic climate has affected our business and we have to react.”

Drivers are concerned the new contract would lead to less holiday entitlement, longer working hours and benefits being slashed.

About 250 drivers took part in a ballot, and the results came out last Wednesday.

Of those who took part, 98% voted in favour of action short of a strike and 95% voted in favour of action including the possibility of a strike.

Mike Flinn, Unite branch convener, said: “We have now tabled our menu of options for the industrial action and this is what we intend to activate over the coming weeks.

“Of course, it is not too late to stop this. If First Aberdeen is willing to get round the table with us and hold discussions then we may be able to find a way forward.”

Mr Flinn, who has worked as a bus driver for 35 years, added: “Withdrawing overtime will have an impact on the company as drivers put in a lot of overtime.

“We of course do not want to deprive customers of the service, but we have been left with no alternative due to the actions of First Aberdeen.”