Arriva urges Unite to reconsider week of strike action

Arriva bus drivers are due to strike over a pay dispute.
Arriva bus drivers are due to strike over a pay dispute.

Arriva is urging Unite to reconsider the week of strike action that will see more than 600 bus drivers in North East walk out over an ongoing pay dispute.

A total of 650 bus drivers will walk out at 12.01am on Sunday, January 6, until 11.59pm on Saturday, January 12.

The drivers, based at Durham, Darlington, Redcar, Stockton and Whitby, are seeking an increase £1 per hour on the rates for the year starting March 2018.

Arriva’s latest pay offer, rejected by the Unite union, comprises a 7.6% increase on hourly rates over a two year period (backdated to March 2018), a reduction in the length of time it takes drivers to hit the top rate of pay (from five years to three years), and a guarantee of a further increase in March 2020 equivalent to £1 an hour.

Arriva has released a wages comparison report to Unite demonstrating that its pay offer will consolidate the drivers’ position as being among the very highest-paid bus drivers in the region.

The comparison in the research, based on wage data, shows that under the new pay offer:

- Arriva drivers will be paid better hourly rates than virtually all of their counterparts at other bus companies in the North East, when factoring in that they are paid for meal-breaks.

- There are only two depots out of over twenty in the North East at which bus drivers are paid more than Arriva drivers and that difference is only 3p per hour more than Arriva Durham drivers will earn, again factoring in the value of paid meal breaks.

- The average Arriva driver pay for a top rate driver for a basic 39 hour week at £10.60 per hour will be £413.40 per week - equivalent to £21,579 per annum before tax and other deductions.

- Many drivers also volunteer for overtime, which would top up weekly pay to around £500 under the new pay deal - equivalent to £26,100 per year per annum before tax and other deductions.

Arriva managing director for the region, Nigel Featham, said: “Unite claims, without any attempt at justification, that our drivers are poorly paid relative to others.

"Quite simply, it’s a false flag, and one that has led to an unnecessary industrial action.

"They’re striking for something they have already been offered.”

Arriva bus routes and services in North Yorkshire, Cleveland, Teesside and Durham areas will be seriously disrupted by the seven-day action.

Arriva is to operate a contingency bus service across the region during the strike and will issue details of routes to be affected on its website, social media and help line in order to keep the public informed.

Those buses which do operate will be free to all passengers, with no fares being charged.

Unite has said that the crux of the dispute was the belief that bus drivers were the second lowest paid drivers of all the Arriva bus companies across the UK.

Unite regional officer Bob Bolam said: “Unite had hoped we could have had constructive talks today to address the glaring pay inequality our members feel as they believe they are the second lowest paid drivers of all the Arriva bus companies across the UK.

“We were keen to have meaningful negotiations with the bus bosses as we appreciate that the week-long strike, starting on Sunday, will cause severe disruption to bus users across the North East."

Nigel Featham, Arriva managing director for the region, added: "We value our drivers highly, and want to do the best for them.

" I might also add that our drivers have never been subject to a pay freeze, have received positive pay settlements each and every year without fail, and their jobs are not
under threat.

"We never take them for granted - that’s why the pay deal on the table is the best one they’ve been offered in recent times."

When asked what message he has to drivers ahead of the strike, Mr Featham added: "It’s not too late to call off the strike.

"The decision to take industrial action is based on a distortion of the facts – you are not the bottom of the league when it comes to pay.

"The pay offer on the table is the best ever offered to Durham drivers and includes the £1 an hour increase guarantee.

"What are you actually going out on strike for?"