TALLINN - The largest bus company in Edinburgh is set to launch a recruitment drive in Eastern Europe in a bid to address its chronic driver shortage.Lothian Buses, which is owned by the Edinburgh City Council, said it would ask the Scottish executive f
The company has long struggled to attract drivers despite advertising recruitment posters on the back of its bus fleet to join the firm two years ago. Last year the Scottish city's traffic-choked streets were blamed for around 250 drivers quitting.
The firm has raised the prospect of hiring drivers from countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to take the pressure off its driving staff of 1,400, many of whom currently work six days a week to keep the service up and running.
Drivers in Scotland earn around 30,000 kroons (1,900 euros) a month, several times what they make in the Baltics.
The move has led to calls to ensure any new drivers from the countries are fluent in English and have a clear understanding of U.K. traffic laws. Neil Renilson, chief executive of Lothian Buses, said the company was ideally seeking an extra 40 drivers.
He added the company already employs drivers from the EU over the busy summer. "Edinburgh's labor market is very tight. We already have drivers from Fife, the Borders and the west," he said.
Renilson explained that the local region was not currently supplying the needed labor and that the company was forced to look beyond it.
"We have overseas drivers from Spain, Germany and Sweden. With the expansion of the EU next year, we are looking at the option [of hiring from Eastern Europe]. We have only had tentative discussions at board level. We are bouncing the idea around," he added.
Scottish MP Kenny MacAskill said he was sympathetic to the idea of recruiting abroad. "There is a serious recruitment problem in many areas of Edinburgh, particularly with drivers. I am all for ensuring the promotion of Edinburgh from within, but the jobs boom has caused a problem," he said.
"But I think that there needs to be a strategy. You can't just pick someone off the streets in Warsaw and deposit them on a bus to Broomhouse or Barnton. They must have accommodation and English language skills," MacAskill added.
Today, councilor Allan Jackson, the city's Tory transport spokesman, urged the company to ensure the drivers were given adequate preparation.
"It is essential that they are well-trained on the drivers' code, that they know to drive on the correct side of the road and are fluent in the language so they can help people," he said.
Rising traffic congestion in the city was blamed last year for sending drivers' stress levels soaring, to the point where many were forced to look for other work.
Drivers' union leaders claimed more and more veteran drivers were seeking early retirement because widespread congestion had made their job so difficult.