Hundreds of rush-hour commuters were left stranded on Thursday evening after National Express Dundee bus drivers staged two wildcat strikes in one day, bringing chaos to the city.
Only school services and a handful of buses completed their routes in the afternoon, leaving lengthy queues at dozens of bus stops around the city. The impromptu strike began in the morning in a dispute over terms and conditions, but gathered pace in the afternoon after two drivers' union representatives were suspended for what National Express claimed was "unauthorised" industrial action, which The Courier understands involved using the company's radio system to call in drivers.
It is understood the dispute began after National Express Dundee said the working week is to increase but for no additional pay. Following talks with Unite branch chairman Rob McKelvie, drivers agreed to end their walkout after just 20 minutes.
However, after management decided to suspend Mr McKelvie and another union representative, drivers were given a second call to drop off their passengers and return to the company's East Dock Street base. By 3pm, around 40 drivers had formed a picket line at the entrance to the depot on Peep O' Day Lane and cheered each returning vehicle as it passed through the gates. Two hours later, it was estimated that all but a handful of the 80 to 90 buses that were supposed to be on the streets of Dundee were instead parked inside the depot.
Drivers did not want to speak to the press given Mr McKelvie's suspension, but the Rev Allan Webster, Dundee's workplace chaplain, said, "As I understand it drivers were called into a meeting and told about changes to their terms and conditions - going from a 40-hour week to a 43-hour week.
"Two union officials called a meeting with staff which management said was unauthorised industrial action and suspended them. There will be more meetings taking place between management and unions, but everyone wants to see this resolved. There is a lot of anger, which doesn't help the situation."
One driver said, "This has been brewing for a while. They want us to work longer, do compulsory overtime and pay us less if we go off sick."
Another said, "There are loads of things going on just now -- you wouldn't believe the half of it." The driver added, "Drivers are permanently on edge. Some are scared for their jobs."