Transport firm First writes to drivers in bid to avert strike over pay

Bosses at transport company First have written to more than 400 drivers in an bid to avert strike action.

The company said it wanted to keep staff “fully informed” after union members agreed to ballot for industrial action last week over a pay dispute.

But a union representative last night dismissed the move as “pure propaganda”, the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper reported today.

Union representatives asked the company for a 4% pay rise for all its Aberdeen employees, but were told last month this would not be possible.

The firm’s managing director, George Mair, said: “These are unprecedented times, with the UK facing its worst recession in many years and thousands of jobs going across the country.

“The retail price index (RPI) – often used by unions as the benchmark for wage negotiations – now stands at minus 1.2% and is predicted to fall further. First is not immune from these conditions – nor are the city and shire of Aberdeen – so it’s obvious that we have to take this into account when discussing wages and conditions.”

He added that managers and directors had accepted wage freezes together with workers at the firm, and said the company was considering a flexible pay deal that would offer employees the chance to earn more money if they accepted new terms and conditions.

But Unite union regional organiser Tommy Campbell said: “Putting out a statement and letters to staff isn’t going to help pay their bills.

“We again insist that the company should share its profits with its own workers.”

Union branch secretary Bob Fothering said the move was “just propaganda on behalf of First”.

Around 200 First employees attended a union meeting last week, where the possibility of strike action was discussed.

Members will this month receive postal ballots asking whether or not they support strike action. A final decision is expected by the end of June.

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