In a Public Inquiry held in The Town House, Aberdeen on 17 January, Traffic Commissioner (TC) for Scotland Joan Aitken, gave her decision on evidence that First Aberdeen Ltd had failed to operate a number of services as registered.
The punctuality and reliability failures arose due to proposed changes to drivers terms and conditions. Drivers were concerned the new contract would lead to less holiday entitlement, longer working hours and benefits being slashed.
The first sign of action from driving staff, which are members of Unite the Union, was in January 2018 when they staged a protest against the new deal outside of the King Street depot in Aberdeen.
Unite later held a ballot where 250 drivers were balloted and of those who took part, 98% voted in favour of action short of a strike, with 95% voting in favour of action including the possibility of a strike.
Unite formally notified First Aberdeen Ltd of the results, which could be activated any day after March 15, 2018. Drivers walked out for 11 days the end of March and the start of April. By 12 April a solution had been found and all driving staff returned to work.
First Aberdeen’s Managing Director, Andrew Davis, said: “The new proposal includes a two-year pay deal that has been negotiated and agreed by both sides which will provide a stable platform for the business in the long term.”
During August and September 2018, First Aberdeen went on to suffer driver shortages as a result of these terms and conditions changes.
This had caused punctuality and reliability issues to its bus services.
A large volume of members of the public attended the hearing on 17 January, which led to the hearing being moved to the larger main council chamber.
Results of independent traffic monitoring by Bus Users Scotland were not made public at the hearing.
During the inquiry, First Aberdeen managers went on to give a public apology.
Miss Aitken applied a section 39 penalty of £50,000 at the conclusion of the hearing, with the fine to be paid within 28 days.