40 bus drivers suspended after protest over salaries
About 40 Arriva bus drivers were suspended yesterday after they abandoned their routes to go to their union’s office to protest about their salaries.
Samuel Grech, president of the Malta Transport Employees’ Union, explained that a number of drivers had been complaining that they were not receiving their full salary.
On various occasions, they noticed discrepancies in their pay cheque that ranged between €50 and €200 and, when they complained, they were told that it was a mistake. But the mistakes kept happening, he said.
Mr Grech, who is also a bus driver, said that according to the bus drivers’ new collective agreement they were meant to see their pay increase and not drop.
He explained that yesterday a group of drivers waiting to start their routes in Valletta discussed their salaries and the situation got “heated up”. They decided to go to the Valletta office of the General Workers’ Union, which was involved in negotiating the collective agreement, to clear the issue. In doing so, they abandoned their routes.
They were later called to Arriva’s Floriana headquarters where they were informed that they were being suspended, Mr Grech said, adding that he was present throughout.
The Times went to the headquarters where the drivers held a meeting with Arriva officials inside a bus. An Arriva spokesman would not comment on the nature of the meeting. However, he confirmed that the drivers’ presence there had disrupted some routes and apologised for the inconvenience.
The extent of the disruptions is not clear.
Charles Agius, from the GWU, said that when drivers went to the union offices earlier on they were told to ensure that the next time there was a mistake in their salary they took the matter to Arriva’s pay office.
Mr Agius said that some of the drivers insinuated that they were “misled” by the GWU and that, through the new collective agreement, their salary had been slashed.
Mr Agius insisted that this was not the case. People working five-day weeks were being paid €410 for 80 hours over 15 days under the new agreement. Before, they got €396 for working 90 hours.
Mr Agius and Mr Grech agreed that the bus drivers had not been instructed by any of the two unions that represent them to abandon their routes. Both said they were informed that about 40 drivers had been suspended as a consequence.
Questions sent to Arriva about the drivers’ suspension and route disruptions remained unanswered at the time of writing.
The disruption brought back memories of the first day of operation of Arriva, in July last year. The new service got off on the wrong foot, with about 100 drivers surprising everyone by not turning up for work because they disagreed with their work rosters. The issue was eventually ironed out.
The company is having a bad month as, on Wednesday, three of its buses crashed after the first skidded into the historic Portes Des Bombes monument in Blata l-Bajda. About 27 passengers and two drivers were hurt.
Earlier this month, London mayor Boris Johnson boasted at the UK Conservative Party conference that the bendy buses he removed from London’s streets were now “clogging the streets of Malta”.