JA union boss has said that striking Aberdeen bus drivers are “extremely committed” to their industrial action as a week-long walk-out begins today.
Talks on Friday between bosses at First Aberdeen and the Unite union broke down without agreement.
Bus chiefs said they were disappointed and frustrated that “two significant improvements” to the offer had not resolved the dispute.
Drivers will man picket lines for a seven-day strike starting today, which will potentially be followed by a four-week walkout as the dispute intensifies.
And there has been anger among strikers about the dozens of drivers who have been brought up from England to cover their shifts.
It is understood that up to 60 have been recruited and are being put up at the Aberdeen Douglas hotel on Market Street and given a £25 a day meal allowance.
The Unite union has a multi-million pound strike fund to pay drivers while they are not behind the wheel which could lead to a protracted struggle – with 95% of those balloted supporting the walkout.
The union says a new contract being offered would mean longer shifts, reduced overtime rates and theremoval of paid breaks.
First Aberdeen says the alterations to terms and conditions are necessary to protect jobs in the long term.
Last night, Unite regional officer Willie Wallace said: “We remain extremely committed.
“They are extremely angry at the way they have been treated. There were talks on Friday but they broke up.
“As for the guys being put up in hotels, we would hope that they wouldn’t do that to their fellow drivers but that is an issue for the company and there is not much we can do about it.”
Andrew Jarvis, managing director for First Aberdeen said around 60% of services were still running.
He said: “To reduce inconvenience to customers whilst the strike action takes place, we have welcomed drivers from other First Bus businesses who have travelled from our sister companies across the UK to assist us in keeping the network operational.
“These colleagues have been paid for travel, training and time worked for providing this cover.
“We are extremely disappointed and frustrated with the continuation of the industrial action, despite two significant improvements to the original offer, but we remain open and available for talks with our union colleagues as we seek a solution that will end the industrial action.”
MSP joins the picket line
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will join drivers on the picket line this morning.
He said: “Drivers feel they have been left with no alternative but to strike because management of First Aberdeen have failed to engage with them in any meaningful way.
“The onus lies clearly with the management to get back round the table and avoid any further disruption stemming from the strike.”