WATCH: Bus strikes in Aberdeen avoided today after “last-ditch” offer

A bus strike has been suspended after bosses made a “fresh and final” offer at the 11th hour.

Drivers have been embroiled in a long-running row with First Bus over “draconian” changes to their terms and conditions, which they fear could leave them up to £5,000 a year worse off, with longer shifts and less holidays.

Members of Unite the union had been voted to walk out indefinitely today, but after further talks yesterday, the industrial action has been put on hold.

It is understood the key focus on yesterday’s debate was about the length of the working day and breaks – with union chiefs now urging members to approve the deal, as it is the “best we can achieve”.

First Aberdeen’s managing director Andrew Jarvis said: “We have been successful with a last-ditch attempt to avoid indefinite strike action via a full and final offer made to our Unite the union colleagues.

“This revised offer was made to Unite the union by the company on the condition that the industrial action planned be immediately suspended and the offer be put to Unite members via a further consultative workplace ballot.

“We are happy to report that the trade union representatives have not only agreed to these terms, but we will also be recommending this offer to their members and the planned action for Wednesday has now been suspended pending the ballot.

“This offer is the absolute maximum that the company can sustain, and cannot be revised any further due to the financial challenges.”

Union members will now be balloted on the proposals today and tomorrow.

However, if they reject the offer, the strike could still go ahead from Friday.

Willie Wallace, Unite’s regional officer, said: “We believe we have moved First Bus a significant way in the past few weeks.

“We’re now in a position where we think this is the best we can achieve, and we will be recommending in the ballot that our members accept the latest proposals.

“There were some key principles for us and our members that we had to get the company to shift on, and they have moved on them today.

“These are to do with the length of the working day, and the length of the breaks on those days, and we believe this will meet the aspirations of our members and hopefully they will see that this is the best we can achieve and accept it.

“But if they turn it down, that is their right, and the action will be back on again on Friday.”

During the previous strikes, First has drafted in drivers from across the country with members of management also getting behind the wheel to keep services running.

However, the action has resulted in a significant impact across the city, both for the public and for businesses.

Mr Wallace added: “Regrettably if there has been any impact on the public, this was not our making.

“This dispute has become a reality due to First bus trying to make draconian changes to the terms and conditions.”

The result of the vote on whether or not the new conditions will be acceptable is expected to be announced tomorrow afternoon.