UNIONS representing the drivers of Palma's municipal bus service “EMT” are threatening strike action because the City Council has not adjusted salaries in line with the cost of living index for two years.

But the Council was defiant yesterday with Transport director Jose Hila retorting: “There won't be an adjustment to EMT drivers' salaries right now.” He explained that in his view, and the view of the Council, the drivers are in a privileged position of having stable, well-paid jobs at a time of crisis and unemployment. “They are the only City Council employees who did not have their salaries cut by 5 percent in line with recommendations made by Central Government as part of austerity measures to cut the national debt,” Hila claimed.

Meanwhile the bus drivers are saying that they are going to continue with their work-to-rule - which has already begun - up until May. They are also planning to demonstrate when the City Council has its next full meeting next Monday.

Stoppages by staff transport and workshop mechanics will be taking place between 5am and 8am on 31st March, 1st and 4th April. On the same days, EMT administration will stop work between 8am and 10am, and there will be 24-hour strikes on 4th and 5th May.

Hila pointed out yesterday that legislation governing the regional budget doesn't permit the Council to concede to the drivers demands “at the drop of a hat”. He said however, that if EMT employees have other complaints about their working conditions, then the City Council would be prepared to discuss them. The workers grievances include not being given enough security on bus services which run at night; having to work shifts of longer than 8 hours - sometimes, they claim, as long as 10 hours consecutively; and that toilets are not provided for driver convenience en route.

Hila backed up his refusal to concede to the pay rise by saying that it has now been two years that charges to the public for using the municipal bus service have been put up and paying the cost of living index adjustment on the drivers' salaries would mean having to find 1.5 million euros. “That would result in our having to put up the present tariffs by 6 percent,” said Hila.

The Councillor suggested that the drivers and their Union representatives were well aware that local elections are looming in May and that they were intending to make political capital out of them.