Bus bosses drive deal to thwart union action

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2001, 12:00am

New World First Bus bosses have outmanoeuvred trade unionists who begin a work-to-rule today by securing an eleventh-hour assurance from another major union that their members will not take part.

Although the prospect of major disruption has eased as a result, company operations director Phil Harper said more inspectors would be deployed to monitor and ease any problems.

The row erupted on Tuesday when the 800-strong New World First Bus Staff Union threatened a work-to-rule over the company's plans to step up inspections of drivers. They called on fellow drivers to stop at every bus-stop for at least five seconds, even if there were no passengers waiting.

However, the company has secured support from leaders of the 1,700-strong Motor Transport Workers General Union (New World Bus Branch). Its chief officer Chu Pun-din said although his union also opposed the move to step up inspection of drivers, it regarded public interest as its priority and would not join the work-to-rule. 'We have been promised they [the company] will talk to our union in the next two weeks to amend unfair terms. We will thus not join any action,' Mr Chu said.

Neither the Transport or Labour departments have stepped into the row, but they have appealed to the drivers for calm.

Central to the row was the stepping up of a month-long inspection period for drivers. While the New World First Bus Staff Union union says the inspection is intended to exert pressure on drivers to accept a pay-freeze, Mr Harper said it was only to improve service. Last night, the staff union said it would continue the work-to-rule, with or without the general union support.

The inspection programme had been conducted over the past three years, Mr Harper said. The latest one, carried out between September and October, saw 275 drivers warned for various misconduct and two sacked for repeated misconduct.

The list of misconduct includes missing stops, jumping red lights, and talking on mobile phones or to passengers while driving.