First Aberdeen bus drivers set to be balloted in pay dispute

Striking First Aberdeen staff on the picket line during a dispute in 2009.

Bus drivers in Aberdeen could take industrial action after details of a major pay shake-up were revealed to the workforce.

Drivers claim the changes to terms and conditions at First Aberdeen would result in wages being cut, working hours extended and less holiday entitlement.

Unite, the drivers’ union which has been negotiating the proposals, today warned that the firm’s offer will likely be rejected by the workforce.

First said the changes – prompted by rising costs and the North-east economic downturn – are a way of safeguarding services and jobs in the future.

But a First Bus driver – who did not want to be named – warned that the contract changes could have real financial consequences for his colleagues.

He said: “The drivers don’t want to go on strike, however, the compromising of safety by extending the driving time, slashing of the wages of drivers, is going to affect the quality of life of the drivers and potentially result in bus drivers resorting to using food banks.”

Wullie Wallace, of Unite, said the early indicators were that drivers would reject the pay deal.

He said: “We will be balloting our members this coming Thursday on the changes to terms and conditions. Depending on the result we will be going back to the company.

“While I am not pre-empting the ballot result it does look like this will be rejected and there could be a potential dispute. This is only affecting the drivers and not engineers. We represent around 300 members of First Bus.”

Andrew Jarvis, First Aberdeen’s managing director, said: “We have been in discussions with trade union representatives on changes to drivers’ terms and conditions for some time.

“The proposed changes will help us maintain services to customers and current workforce levels in the face of challenging economic conditions.

“The downturn in the local economy and falling revenue on some routes means the current financial position cannot be maintained.

“It is crucial that we revise our operational costs to make the business sustainable into the future. We have entered into constructive dialogue with trade union representatives over the new package.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Stephen Flynn said:“Hopefully First can reach an agreement that is suitable for the drivers as strike action would impact huge numbers of people across the city.”