Government says it is aware that the Gibraltar Bus Company Ltd has commenced Industrial Action as from today, 6th September at 1230hrs.
This morning, the Government met with Unite and agreed to meet again this afternoon and on Friday, to discuss options that included elements related to pay as they had explicitly requested. If there were consensus between the government and the union on the matter, a written commitment on pay would have materialised on the day. Government has said it is extremely surprised and upset with the actions that have now been taken by the Gibraltar Bus Company.
'The bus company staff grievance pertains to their respective remuneration, where they are seeking an increase to basic pay between 40% to 80%, dependent on the grade.'
For the purposes of context, the Bus Company and Unite have a standing agreement, signed in 2019 which provided that existing pay for Bus Drivers would stand, and rise in line with public sector pay rises, until 2029. HMGOG says it continues to abide by this.
'The Government is committed to continue to provide the free service to residents whilst maintain its parallel duty to taxpayers and the private sector.'
'The Government determines that Bus Company Bus Drivers in Gibraltar enjoy extremely generous wages with most earning far beyond the Gibraltarian average earning of £3,568.20 for monthly paid full-time employees as per the Statistics Office's Employment Survey Report 2022. Some drivers already earn between £5,500 and £6,500 per month (£66,000 to £78,000 per year) with overtime and allowances.'
'The Government informed Unite their stance against renegotiating the basic pay of drivers exclusively in light of the agreement at the Bus Company but was prepared to rescind the agreement in its totality and sit down to renegotiate the agreement in full, seeking a compromise that is justifiable and palatable for the taxpayer, improving the efficacy of our bus service.'
The annual cost of the Bus Company since it was made a free service to residents is a loss to the public purse in financial terms in the region of £5m per year.
The Government said it deeply laments the disruption that this Industrial Action will have on the general public, where steps to mitigate the worst of the action are being taken, but nonetheless calls on Unite to honour its agreement on the Bus Company and pursue the pathway the Government has outlined for this matter's resolution. The Government reiterates that it is ready to renegotiate the whole agreement, but not just the elements that Unite has determined as favourable to its membership's exclusive interest.
The Government extends apologies to all service users for the untimely industrial actions, particularly as they align with the start of the school term.
In a statement, the Government continued to say that it is happy to sit down with Unite to continue the negotiations, but it cannot accept that the negotiations should continue whilst the drivers are on an indefinite strike.
The Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo KC MP, said: “I INVITE Unite and those who represent bus drivers to go back to work and to return to the negotiating table. We will NOT agree to a pay rise outside of the terms of the agreement signed by Unite but we are open to a negotiation that is in the interest of the bus drivers and taxpayer. Through dialogue and negotiation, we will reach an agreement that works for all of us. With a strike and confrontation, the bus drivers will inconvenience everyone and achieve nothing – and certainly no 40-80% pay rises. There are many great people who work in the Bus Company and do a great job. I know they will want to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible”.