Bosses at an Aberdeen bus firm say they are “extremely disappointed” that drivers have rejected a pay deal.
Unite the Union members were being balloted on the settlement, which was thrashed out with First Aberdeen following 10 days of strike action.
Of the 255 members balloted – an 80% turnout – 148 voted to reject the deal and 106 voted to accept.
Workers were asked to vote on the changes to contracts after a deal was struck in talks mediated by the Advisory, Conciliatory and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
The drivers’ decision means “indefinite” strike action could begin in the city as early as tomorrow.
David Phillips, operations director for First Aberdeen, described the vote outcome as “very concerning indeed”.
He said: “Firstly, we would like to begin by apologising to our customers for the ongoing disruption that further industrial action is likely to cause as we very much hoped to be getting our services back to normal.
“First Aberdeen are extremely disappointed by the news that Unite the Union members have voted to reject our final offer proposal on the revised terms and conditions.
“This agreement was reached with Unite the Union representatives via the ACAS collective conciliation talks, where management were extremely transparent about the precarious financial position that the company finds itself in.
“During these talks, we were absolutely clear that this was the best and final offer on the table despite the current reality of the situation facing the business in the city.
“We were willing to go to these extra lengths to get the city’s bus services back to normal and end the disruption, so to see this voted down via ballot is very concerning indeed.
“The company will now need to take some time to digest this result and to weigh up the next steps as the costs to the business and falling revenues we are currently enduring simply cannot be sustained.”
Willie Wallace, the full-time officer in Aberdeen’s Unite branch, said: “Our members have decided by a majority of three to two that the offer from First Bus was still not acceptable.
“We have to listen to that message.
“We’ve been in touch with First Bus, hopefully we can get back round the table as soon as. If that’s not the case, then the industrial action will resume tomorrow.”
Mr Wallace said more talks would take place before then and an agreement could be reached if people “focus on the issues in hand”.
When asked how he believed the public would respond, Mr Wallace said that they had always had a “sympathetic” response from customers, saying: “This action is not of our making, it’s based on First trying to impose changes on our members’ terms, and hopefully the public will understand that.
“Unite has been prepared to negotiate and make concessions. It’s not us who are unreasonable.
“It’s the intransigence of First Bus management which is, in effect, holding the people and businesses of Aberdeen to ransom.”