26 Oct 2012

Devon and Cornwall strike hits hard

Drivers at First Devon and Cornwall walked out today, in the first of two strikes over low pay. The action was well supported, with some big picket lines (photo shows Plymouth garage). First has called in managers to drive buses on some routes, but they said most of their services will be disrupted or cancelled altogether.
A spokesperson for the RMT said drivers had "had enough" amid meagre pay rises and the removal of overtime. Phil Bialyk, regional organiser for the RMT South West, said the dispute had rumbled on since April. "We took a strike ballot and had a very clear mandate for strike action," he told The Herald. "Last-ditch attempts for talks floundered and our drivers felt enough was enough."

Drivers were unhappy with the offer of a one per cent pay rise this year – and a proposed 2.7 per cent pay hike next year, he said. But Mr Bialyk added: "The real sting in the tail is new contracts that are coming to light in Cornwall." He said First had proposed new deals which would see drivers' sick pay reduced – and overtime pay scrapped. "We would sometimes be expected to work 45 hours a week," Mr Bialyk continued.
Another strike is planned for 9 November and staff will not work any unscheduled overtime or on rest days on 11 and 17 November. First employs 675 people in Devon and Cornwall. Of the 300 who took part in the RMT ballot, 85% voted for strike action.

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