Bus drivers at First Aberdeen have voted to reject the company’s “final” offer and were set to begin an indefinite strike on Wednesday this week.
On an 80 percent turnout drivers voted by 58 percent to 42 percent against the deal.
The Unite union’s regional officer Willie Wallace said, “The union members have spoken. And they have said loud and clear that they are not prepared to accept the current proposals from First.
“The company has to recognise that and get back round the negotiating table.”
Unite said, “Among other things the First Bus current proposals include an increase in drivers’ working hours for reduced wages, reduced sick pay, reduced annual leave and holiday pay, and an end to paid breaks for drivers.”
First Bus bosses tried to use divide and rule to undermine the workers’ fight.
The workforce is split between two sets of contracts, one for long-time workers and one for those who have only begun in recent years.
The proposed deal would have seen drivers on new contracts get a pay rise of 20p an hour.
But one driver on the new contract said he would be losing money anyway because the company was removing weekend shift allowance.
And another driver called for a vote of no confidence in the Unite union negotiator when the dispute was over.
The all-out strike was called at a mass meeting of Unite union members, where they voted to strike from 6 April.
But it was delayed after the new offer was considered.
The last wave of action followed strikes throughout February and March.
During the action bosses have used about 60 scabs, who they put up in hotels at enormous expense.
But despite the company’s efforts very few services were running in an effective way.
Businesses in Aberdeen are already complaining of fewer customers because of the strikes, and indefinite action will turn the screw.
The bosses won’t back off easily.
First Aberdeen’s operations director David Phillips said, “The company will now need to weigh up the next steps as the costs to the business and falling revenues we are currently enduring simply cannot be sustained.”
Stagecoach also operates buses in Aberdeen. Drivers there should refuse to do additional work to cover for the strikes.
Unite must build solidarity at every level of the union, and make the Aberdeen strike a focus across Britain.
By their courageous actions, the bus workers have sent a strong message to First Bus that they are no longer going to accept their attacks.
They deserve full support.