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Bus strike continues against election backdrop

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Staff at the Gibraltar Bus Company remain on strike over an ongoing pay dispute against the backdrop of an election campaign that kicked off earlier this week.

Unite the Union said the Government had offered a meeting on Tuesday, September 12 at 4pm but that this had been “clearly disingenuous” given the election was called hours earlier.

The Chronicle understands the bus routes will not be operational on Thursday, with no word on when drivers plan to return to work.

Unite said the upcoming election will not hold back the dispute for its members in the Gibraltar Bus Company.

The bus drivers have been on strike for over a week with the Government having to arrange alternative measures for school buses.

There have been no red Gibraltar Bus Company fleet buses on the road since over 98% of Unite members of the bus company voted in favour of strike action.

“Due to HMGOG previously delaying matters members continued strike action as they were left with no other option whilst HMGOG chose to not negotiate,” Unite the Union said in a statement.

“Furthermore, the smear tactics that have been used in previous HMGOG press releases have added fuel to the fire instead of engaging in constructive solutions.”

“Regardless, of the upcoming election and its result Unite will continue to pursue a fair deal for its members and will hold whoever is in power, accountable.”

The strike follows months of negotiations and two unsuccessful last-minute talks with the Gibraltar Government over a long-standing pay dispute.

The bus drivers feel they are being unfairly compensated for their work and have taken issue with their long overtime hours, with around 50 to 60 bus drivers on strike.

When operational the complement would work 12 days in a row on shifts to man the 20-strong fleet of vehicles.

Currently bus drivers earn around £10 an hour and are calling for pay parity with other drivers working for the Government, who they say earn more.

Last week saw a pause in the strike with the drivers refuelling as negotiations continued.

However, strike action continued as the bus drivers said “no reasonable” offer was put on the table.

The Government previously rejected that bus drivers are underpaid.

In statements issued last week, the Government said the pay claim amounted to between 40% to 80% depending on grade, and that some drivers earned as much as £78,000 a year when overtime and allowances were factored in.

Their wages were then published, which showed allowances and overtime had effectively more than doubled the salaries of some.

The figures showed the top earning person in the Gibraltar Bus Company receiving £70,000 last year, about half of which was overtime. 

The top 11 earners had salaries of £50,000 or more, including overtime and allowances. Overall, some nine employees earned less than £30,000 out of the complement of 56 staff, even when overtime and allowances were factored in.

The lowest earner received a salary of £23,790 last year.

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