City bus strikes planned

JON WELCH Bus drivers in Norwich are to strike on Friday , bringing First Eastern Counties' services in the city to a standstill. The Transport and General Workers' Union, which represents the company's Norwich drivers, has called a series of one-day strikes over a pay claim.

JON WELCH

Bus drivers in Norwich are to strike on Friday bringing First Eastern Counties' services in the city to a standstill.

The Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G), which represents the company's Norwich drivers, has called a series of one-day strikes over a pay claim.

The union has previously suspended two planned strike days, but said 250 drivers would walk out this week unless a settlement could be reached.

If the strike goes ahead, all First Eastern Counties services based from the city will be affected, with the exception of the contract Park and Ride services.

Ivan Crane, regional industrial organiser for the T&G, said union negotiators had delayed the strike action to allow time for talks.

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He said that a pay increase with "no strings attached" would resolve the long-running dispute but that the latest proposals put forward by the company included changes to current terms and conditions which would mean many drivers were worse off.

"We have already suspended two previous strike days to allow for further discussions. Unfortunately, the company has not taken advantage of this and put forward plans which would leave people worse off."

Further strikes are scheduled for Wednesday, April 25, and Monday, April 30.

At an earlier ballot for strike action, 81pc of the drivers said they would back industrial action if required.

Neither side will reveal details of either the union's pay claim or the company's offer.

Peter Iddon, managing director of First Eastern Counties, said: "I am extremely disappointed to hear that the T&G has announced that they are calling for a series of strikes that will affect bus services in Norwich.

"We believe that there is simply no need for them take this action, which will cause significant disruption and inconvenience to thousands of bus users. We have offered the T&G the opportunity to return to the negotiating table so that a solution can be found."

Mr Iddon said there were historical inconsistencies in the pay grades of the Norwich drivers, and the company was aiming to even them out.

Drivers at the company's other depots in King's Lynn, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Yarmouth have already accepted the company's pay offer.

Norwich drivers were being offered the same package with some minor variations, Mr Iddon added.