SOME 20'000 people in and around Palma could have been affected by an unofficial stoppage of municipal bus company workers yesterday, the first of a series of threatened industrial action planned to disrupt services in the weeks to come. The first unofficial stoppage called by the company's Works Committee, was supported by nearly all the drivers, because even those who chose to report for the early morning shift, found the depot gates firmly locked. Ramón Alcolea, secretary of the Works Committee, pointed out yesterday that the stoppage took place between 5 and 7.30 am. The municipal bus company Works Committee is demanding that management resume negotiations with the workers over salary. The two sides have so far failed to agree over a percentage increase, in that the drivers want a 5 percent “negotiable” pay rise and the company says that budgetary increases for 2004, now enshrined in law, only accommodate a 2 percent rise. Management further point out that they had offered the drivers the alternative of having the conflict adjudicated by an independent tribunal, a proposal which the Works Committee rejected. Management allege the Committee has refused to go to tribunal because they (the Committee) know full well the pay demand is illegal. The Transport Unions have also been reminded that the European Commission plans to free up the market of municipal transport services of member States and that excess pay demands could jeopardise the company's competitiveness. The service stoppages will be repeated on 2 and 3 March, and on 9 and 11 of the same month, there will be a general strike “if the company don't get in touch with Unions to start up negotiations” added the secretary. Alcolea declared that “as a last resort” the Unions are prepared to strike indefinitely as of day 11.
Alcolea affirmed that during yesterday's stoppage, there was not even a minimal service provided to link the outlying districts of Palma because the Ministry of Transport “hadn't considered it necessary”, and neither had there been a minimal service on the inner city routes, because the bus company management “hadn't called the Works Strike Committee to agree what buses should be provided”.