However some of the figures are quite startling. According to the Ipswich Star two thirds of drivers have accepted an offer of £11.00 an hour, but it is the new driver rate of £8.66 which is the main bone of contention. The company has offered £8.81 an hour but the union wants £10ph.
Now it must be said that I would want a pretty high hourly rate to be persuaded to drive around Ipswich day in day out. But it's also worth comparing the rate Ipswich Buses drivers get compared to other operators. Rates around the region vary, I'm not going to name operators but I know of rates of £9ph, £10ph, £10.50ph, even an exceptionally low £8.08ph. I'm reliably informed that down in Kent the big operators pay between £10 - £11ph (I was on £3.31ph in 1987) and even in London where everything is so much more expensive and pressurised you'll be lucky to get £14ph. One Commercial Director I spoke to this afternoon confirmed it's fairly standard practice for new drivers to be on a lower rate for the first year or so. I couldn't be more against that practice. It should never be forgotten that bus drivers carry the most precious cargo there is - us! Our children, parents, grandmas, friends, spouses all entrust their lives to the skilled chaps and chapesses behind the wheel and the responsibility of that cargo doesn't change regardless of how long a driver has been on the company. Ironic that HGV drivers get considerably more than bus drivers yet who has the more valuable cargo?
Considering that the starter rate on Ipswich Buses is higher than some operators pay their established staff, and their enhanced rate is the highest in the region I can discover, then I am more and more convinced this dispute is about far more than just money. Having said that Ipswich Buses, like Hedingham are cancelling services on a daily basis due to "driver shortages".A starter rate that far below the enhanced rate isn't going to do much to attract new drivers to the firm.
I would suggest that something has to be done to settle this dispute and quick. Unions are flexing muscles at the moment in many areas and we don't want this dispute to become another Southern Trains dispute, which is now so far down the line (sorry couldn't resist that) neither side can afford to give in now without losing a whole lot of credibility.
Ipswich Buses say they will run a skeleton service on Monday but cannot guarantee any one service. If there are any further developments I will of course publish them here, but keep an eye on Twitter as I will also retweet anything coming out of Ipswich Buses - which has been strangely quiet on the subject thus far. Follow me