Bus drivers to stage seven-day strike

By Craig RobinsonTRANSPORT bosses have failed in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a potentially-crippling bus strike.Drivers working for First Eastern Counties, which provides services for Lowestoft, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Norwich, voted yesterday in favour of taking industrial action over a pay dispute.

By Craig Robinson

TRANSPORT bosses have failed in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a potentially-crippling bus strike.

Drivers working for First Eastern Counties, which provides services for Lowestoft, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Norwich, voted yesterday in favour of taking industrial action over a pay dispute.

The strike by members of the Transport and General Workers' Union will take place from 5am on September 15 and will last for seven days until midnight on September 21.


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Keith Andrews, managing director of First, said: “I apologise to our customers for the inconvenience this industrial action will cause and for the uncertainty of the situation.

“It will cause disruption that we believe is completely unnecessary. The company has made a very fair offer within its means and has done everything possible to avoid strike action and any loss of services.

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“No-one will win if the industrial action goes ahead. Our customers will suffer and our drivers will lose money.

“I hope we can resolve the situation this week and avoid a strike. If the strike does go ahead, it will probably affect all of our bus routes.

“If this is the case, we will do everything we can to avoid inconvenience to our customers and will do our best to maintain some services.”

Drivers estimate they will lose between £50 and £60 a week under the pay offer, which is in the region of 2%, but sees the end of severance pay and paid break times and extends the drivers' time behind the wheel.

An offer of 0.5% with no strings was on the table earlier this summer. Some First workers, not involved in driving, are believed to have accepted no-strings offers of between 2.75% and 3%, but the dispute with the drivers remains.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first serious industrial action taken by First drivers since January 2003.

That action cost the company tens of thousands of pounds and had a negative impact on the area's economy of several millions of pounds.

Strike action will also affect thousands of shoppers and workers who rely on the buses to get to town and cities across the region every day.

No-one from the Transport and General Workers' Union was available for comment last night.

n Anyone with questions about the strikes and the services affected can contact First Customer Services on 08456 020121. For alternative travel services, contact Traveline on 0870 608 2608.

craig.robinson@eadt.co.uk

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