Bus strike confirmed for Monday after pay deal rejected
FIRST Cymru drivers and engineers will strike in South and West Wales on Monday after rejecting the company's latest pay offer.
Union leaders met with First managers at the firm's Ravenhill headquarters for crunch talks on Tuesday this week to try and avert a strike.
The latest pay deal of a one per cent increase from January this year and 2.5 per cent increase from January next year was put to drivers and engineers last night.
Unite representative Gareth Jones today confirmed union members have rejected the deal and will go ahead with the 24-hour strike on Monday from 4am.
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Mr Jones said Unite had recommended the drivers and engineers should accept the latest offer but understood their frustration and pledged support from the union for the impending industrial action.
He said: "This is a serious step for them to take.
"The recommendation came from senior shop stewards.
"Our members have decided not to follow that recommendation which is their right to do so.
"We understand why they have rejected that.
"It is not a great offer but we felt it was the best that could be achieved through negotiations."
Unite will have a presence in First Cymru depots from Haverfordwest to Cardiff on Monday.
First Cymru General Manager Simon Cursio said: "We are incredibly disappointed that despite efforts and talks to resolve the current dispute with the Union representing drivers and engineers, the planned walk out of driving and engineering staff on Monday is still going ahead.
"The drivers and engineers are striking over pay, despite very good offers having been tabled by the company.
"The action that the union is taking will cause undue disruption to hardworking people in South and West Wales, who rely on our services to get to work, education and leisure destinations.
"In the current economic climate this action is very disappointing and is likely to lead to a lot of our customers being unable to get to work or school unless they can find alternative methods of transport.
"With many people out of work and others facing pay freezes and tougher times, we are shocked and saddened that our drivers and engineers would turn down a pay offer which had the full support and recommendation of their union officials and which addressed the key concerns union members had with the original pay offer.
"We are especially disappointed considering that our drivers and engineers already enjoy a generous pay and benefits package.
"We would like to offer our sincere apologies to our customers who will be inconvenienced by the action taking place.
"On Monday we will prioritise contracted school services and those journeys we operate on a tendered basis on behalf of the local authorities."
Swansea Council has ensured all contract bus services taking children entitled to free travel to and from school will be unaffected by First Cymru industrial action on Monday.
The following services for schoolchildren will go ahead as normal despite the planned strike:
· Contract services 14 & 14A to Bishopston
· Contract service 117 to Bishopston
· Contract service 603 to Bishop Vaughan
· Contract service 622A to Olchfa
A spokesman for the local authority said parents should check with their schools for advice on ensuring their children can get to school if they normally use public bus services.
Park and ride services operated by the Council will not be affected by the strike.
Cath Swain, from Swansea Council's Transportation Team, said: "Contract school bus services which take children to school from agreed pick-up points are not affected by the industrial action.
"It's the responsibility of parents to make arrangements to ensure their child can get to and from school safely and we'd strongly advise those whose children use public services operated by First Cymru to check with their school and to consider alternative arrangements on Monday, if needed."
Children who are eligible for free transport and have bus passes to travel on the normal public service buses will have alternative transport arrangements made for them.
There will be no First Cymru services for children who do not have entitlement to free transport and who use public bus services to get to and from school, such as Service 31 between Trallwn and Birchgrove Comprehensive and Service 36 between the city centre and Bishop Vaughan school.
It will be necessary for parents of these children to make arrangements for their children to get to and from school on Monday.
A spokesman for Swansea Council said: "Owing to the industrial action it's possible that roads in Swansea will be busier than usual on Monday and motorists are advised to allow more time for their journeys."