Bus drivers stall industrial campaign for talks

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

The 800-strong New World First Bus Staff Union has delayed its work-to-rule action for two days to allow negotiations with the company to start today or tomorrow.

The union said last night that management had expressed a 'high level of sincerity' in relation to talks. It stressed that action would be taken again if no agreement could be reached by tomorrow.

The company outmanoeuvred trade unionists yesterday by securing an eleventh-hour assurance from another major union that their members would not take part, meaning the chance of a major disruption had eased.

The row erupted on Tuesday when the union threatened a work-to-rule over company plans to step up inspections of drivers.

They called on fellow drivers to pull over at every stop for at least five seconds, even if there were no passengers waiting.

The company 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 that 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 nor Labour departments have stepped into the row, but they have appealed to the drivers for calm.

While the New World First Bus Staff Union says the stepping up of a month-long driver inspection is intended to exert pressure on drivers to accept a pay-freeze, company operations director Phil Harper said it was only to improve service.

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 misconduct and two sacked for repeated misconduct.

Misconduct includes missing stops, jumping red lights and talking on mobile phones or to passengers while driving.