Only 1 in 10 Plymouth buses on road in First strike
BUS passengers across the city were hit by a 24-hour strike leaving just 10 per cent of First Devon & Cornwall services running.
Yesterday's strike came after the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said the firm's bus drivers were fed up with meagre pay rises and the removal of overtime.
Drivers told The Herald they were not happy with the offer of a one per cent pay rise this year – and a proposed 2.7 per cent pay hike next year, which one employee said worked out at an additional 12p an hour.
After bosses and union chiefs failed to reach an agreement, members of the RMT voted in majority favour of strike action.
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Speaking at the Chelson Meadow picket, Phil Bialyk, regional organiser for the RMT South West, said members voted with an 85 per cent majority in favour of the strike.
He explained: "I'm very pleased they are supporting their own strike action.
"All I know is this demonstrates to the company that their employees, our members, are serious. They take it very seriously losing a day's pay and having this impact on the public.
"Nobody really wants this but it's been going on for six or seven months and to be honest we've had nothing but mistruths.
"To be fair, the latest talks were a bit more constructive but they could have come that bit closer and they didn't so that's why we are here.
"We don't really want to do this; most of the people here could do without losing the money in the run-up to Christmas."
Six pickets were set up across the city with a further 25 'friends of pickets'.
A picket at the company's Chelson Meadow depot saw 30 drivers and depot workers on strike.
One First Devon & Cornwall bus driver said: "I've been with the company a very long time now – getting on for 40 years and this is only the third time we've had to take industrial action in the form of strikes.
"We are not raving militants. We are just looking for a good deal and what they've offered isn't good.
"Years ago when I first started working here it was part of the National Bus Company working for the public – these days we are running for the shareholders."
The driver said in previous years they would have received time-and-a-half for working weekends and double if Sunday was their rest day but now they receive no additional overtime.
He added: "Our living standards have really declined over the years. Unfortunately if we hit the managers we hit the public and we don't want to do it to the public."
Another bus driver said he only had one adverse comment compared with 30 comments of support on Thursday whilst driving his usual route.
His colleague added: "It's nice to see the support from the people; we found that on Thursday on the buses as well."
As a result it was estimated just 10 percent of the bus company's services were running on Friday.
Park-and-ride services were dropped back from every seven minutes to every 15 minutes and the firm managed to run services between Plymouth and Tavistock for students going to school.
A spokeswoman for First Devon & Cornwall, said: "We were able to run a slightly better service than expected on the park-and-ride with buses every 15 minutes as opposed to every seven.
"The firm also ran commercial services to Tavistock College from Plymouth.
"The overall majority of our services have not been operating but it will be business as usual on Saturday."