24 October 2012


Latest update from First:

Industrial Action affecting bus services in Devon and Cornwall

Despite extensive efforts on the part of the company to reduce the likelihood of industrial action affecting bus services in Devon and Cornwall, First Devon and Cornwall has been informed by the Union representing drivers, engineers and some other staff in the company, that they will stage a 24 hour walk out on Friday 26 October (from 00.01 hours until 23.59 hours). The walk out will affect all First depots in Devon and Cornwall.
This action is deeply regrettable and very disappointing, not least because it will cause undue disruption and anxiety for the many customers who rely on local bus services to get to school, work and leisure destinations.
Firsts management team has met with the RMT Unions local officials on a number of occasions in order to resolve the pay dispute and has offered its employees what it considers to be a very generous deal which, over the course of two years, is worth up to 7.1% pay increase, of which 3.9% is guaranteed, while a further 3.2% is linked to efficiencies and business improvements (some of which are already being achieved) that must be made within the business. The need to make efficiencies is to ensure that the long term viability of the business can be maintained, and to protect jobs for those people who currently work for the company.
The company remains willing to talk to the union to resolve the issue " and proposed that they meet again on Wednesday 24 October on the understanding that the RMT postponed the action that is currently planned for Friday; however the Union declined this offer. As such industrial action is due to go ahead on Friday 26 October.
The company is now planning its response to the planned action, and is working out what services it will be able to run on Friday. This information will be communicated to customers as soon as it becomes available.
Talking about the issue, Chrissie Bainbridge, Service Delivery Director for First South Coast, says: "We are incredibly disappointed that the Union has called for this action and that they are preparing to strike on Friday 26 October. We are now putting together contingency plans, which we will communicate to customers as soon as possible.
"The offer that we have put on the table for our staff is a very good one. It guarantees drivers, engineers and administration staff a two year pay deal worth up to 7.1% overall, with this years rise backdated to April. In keeping with many businesses operating in this tough economic environment part of the deal is about improving the efficiency of the business, for instance improving driving performance and similarly reducing the amount of injuries sustained by passengers on board buses. In addition there is a proposal to make some very small changes to the sickness scheme and introduce new driver contracts in the business, which promote employment opportunities in the long term.
"The offer also adds to an already generous pay and benefits package. Drivers in Devon and Cornwall earn around £17,000 per annum as their basic salary with the opportunity to earn much more through overtime. In addition to this they also get generous holiday entitlement, paid sick leave, access to contributory pension schemes, access to an employee assistance programme, access to Share Save and Buy As You Earn saving schemes, free bus travel for staff and their immediate families, reduced price train travel around the UK and access to other discounts at other high street stops and leisure destinations.
"Industrial action benefits no one. Customers will be inconvenienced, those employees taking action will lose pay for the days that they do not work and the business will suffer as people will find other, alternative ways to get from A to B. In light of the fact that the bus industry is already facing challenging times, with millions of pounds worth of funding cuts, cost increases affecting all parts of the business and the recession impacting on the number of people using our services, we would expect trade unions representing our staff to work with us to grow the business and make it stronger, rather than undermining efforts in this way by calling for unnecessary strike action.
"We would urge the union to call off this action and once again consider the very generous offer that has been put to them.'
As a company First remains committed to resolving the dispute with the union, however it seems likely that the 24 hour walk out will go ahead on Friday with all local bus services in Devon and Cornwall affected.
First will do all it can to communicate to customers the extent of the disruption, using its Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, as well as its official website and posters on buses and at key locations. Customers should, however, prepare for disruption, possibly finding alternative forms of transport for Friday if at all possible. The company, while working hard to minimise disruption, is currently planning what will and will not operate on the day. Where possible First will be prioritising contracted school services.

First Devon & Cornwall

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