'Disgust' after bus strike hits commuters in Devon and Cornwall
By Western Morning News | Friday, October 26, 2012, 06:30
Bus services across Devon and Cornwall are set to be thrown into chaos today after eleventh-hour talks to avert a strike failed.
Disruption in services across the two counties came after First Devon and Cornwall and the RMT union could not agree a pay deal.
On Wednesday, a last-ditch bid by the company to persuade unions to accept a two-year pay deal worth up to 7.1% came to nothing.
Bus drivers, engineers and backroom staff will walk out for 24 hours today. A second one-day strike is planned for November 9.
First's competitors, City Bus in Plymouth, Stagecoach and Western Greyhound, were set to pick up extra fares today.
Yesterday, a spokesman for First Devon and Cornwall said they were "incredibly disappointed" and accused union members of being "selfish".
He said: "The walkout was planned despite a number of very good offers having been tabled by the company, as recently as Wednesday evening.
"Despite lengthy talks and a willingness to negotiate on behalf of the company, an agreement has not been reached. In this current economic climate, we believe this action is very selfish." Union chiefs – who represent 382 of the 675-strong workforce caught up in the dispute – said they "regretted" strike action.
Phil Bialyk, RMT regional organiser said: "We made some progress at the meetings but nothing on the major issues of pay and contracts for new employees. There are still many issues outstanding. One is the lack of trust and confidence our members have in management."
The firm said it would prioritise contracted school and college services in Cornwall, and in Devon it hopes to run services to Tavistock School and a reduced park-and-ride service in Plymouth. All other services are set for disruption.
One pensioner who will find herself caught up in the dispute has said she is "disgusted" by the strike action.
Joan Moore, 69, who lives near St Agnes, Cornwall, said: "It makes me so damn angry they can't get their act together. Rural bus services are not that good at the best of times without this lot making matters worse."
First said it would communicate disruptions via its website, Facebook, Twitter and through posters on buses and at locations.
Tracey Roose, chief executive at Age UK Cornwall, added: "We know older people rely heavily on public transport, so this will have an impact on them. Also, 86% of over-80s do not have access to the internet, making it hard for them to view timetable updates or rescheduling online."