| Handing over of the petition to|
Cllr David Woods, Chair of ITA.
More than 7,000 people across the region have signed a petition opposing the Nexus proposals, raising concerns over bus fares rises, council tax increases, and threats to bus workers' jobs and pensions.
Representatives from the GMB were part of a delegation of bus workers who delivered the petition to Nexus HQ in Newcastle today.
The delegation included GMB Branch Secretary Matthew Laws, Stagecoach North East Managing Director Phil Medlicott and concerned bus passengers as they presented the petition to transport authority chiefs.
Private consultants have so far received around £300,000 of taxpayers' money in fees for developing the Nexus contracts plans without one single bus improvement being made. Nexus has confirmed in a Freedom of Information response that the bill by April 2014 is expected to top £1million.
"Together, they have a simple message for the transport authority: 'we don't want bus contracts or the fare increases and council tax rises that come with them.' It is time Nexus put people first instead of politics and listened to those who understand buses and use them."
Matthew Laws, whose union represents large numbers of bus workers in Sunderland, said: “We have real concerns about pay and conditions, our pensions and long-term job stability if we have to change companies all the time as they do in London. In an area where unemployment is high, it is a real worry for our members.”
Unite Newcastle Branch Secretary Tom Shoesmith, who is also Chairman of the Central Negotiating Committee covering all Stagecoach depots in Tyne and Wear and represents 99% of Stagecoach drivers in Newcastle, added: "Our members are at the sharp end of providing bus services in local communities across Tyne and Wear. They care about their passengers and the bus network.
"Bus workers also want the best deal that will mean stability for their families and not put at risk their financial future. That is why they are against the contract plans. Contracts will damage the bus network, hit living standards, and push up bills for everyone. That is why, instead, we want Nexus to work in partnership with the bus companies to deliver improvements."
Bus operators in Tyne and Wear have proposed a comprehensive package of improvements to services, which would deliver all the benefits passengers want without unnecessary costs and delay.
Under a proposed partnership with the transport authority, customers would benefit from:
• smarter ticketing and better value fares.
• commitments on investment in extra buses and new low carbon vehicles.
• better information, on-board facilities, and a formal customer charter
• financial savings for taxpayers.
• a better voice for customers and local communities in their bus network
Overall, the partnership proposal would deliver a stronger, more stable bus network for the long term and help protect the jobs and pensions of bus workers.
Stagecoach has set up a website, www.backthebus.com, where people in Tyne and Wear can find out more and also learn about the damaging implications of the bus contracting plans.
The consultation on the Nexus bus contracts proposals closes on 22 November and members of Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority are set to vote on whether to go ahead at a special meeting in March 2014.