LETTER: Bus drivers set the record straight

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Sir: With reference to Christian Wolmar's article "Free rides keep bus staff on road" (5 January), the drivers were sacked by me as managing director of Eastern National, not, as you report, by Badgerline. This is a local dispute affecting only on e of Eastern National's seven depots and industrial relations are entirely a local matter.

Sixty per cent of staff eligible to vote voted to support strike action. Staff were warned in advance, in writing, that if they took part in strike action on 18 November they would be dismissed. Their response, following an impromptu branch meeting on that day, was not to call off the action and retain their jobs, but to bring it forward by five and a half hours, without notice, leaving passengers stranded.

Over 450 candidates applied to fill the vacancies left by the sacked drivers and 50 new drivers are already operational. The L-plate buses that your reporter spotted were actually training vehicles used to train more new recruits - there are 10 of these buses currently in the area.

Many drivers at Chelmsford remained loyal to the company, along with more than 500 staff throughout the company. As with any dispute, there are two sides to the argument. The purpose of this letter is to highlight some of the areas not covered in your story. As managing director of this company, my loyalty is to the staff and passengers who have supported the company throughout the dispute.

Yours faithfully, ROBIN ORBELL Managing director Eastern National Chelmsford, Essex 5 January