More than 600 Arriva bus drivers to go on week-long strike over pay dispute

Bus drivers are due to go on strike over a pay dispute.
Bus drivers are due to go on strike over a pay dispute.

Arriva bus drivers in the North East are gearing up to strike for a week 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.

The bus drivers rejected the revised package before Christmas which included 75p on the hourly rate over two years in four instalments.

Talks today between Unite - Britain and Ireland’s largest union which represents the drivers - and the Arriva Durham County Ltd management, broke down when the company said there was ‘no new money’ on the table.

Unite today accused the bosses of ‘going around and around in circles’, after the drivers had overwhelmingly rejected a revised pay offer just before Christmas.

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.

“However, when it came down to brass tacks, there was no new money on the table – the management went around and around in circles.

"As a result, the strike will go ahead on Sunday, as planned.

“However, we are still open for a positive dialogue with just over 48 hours to go before our members walk-out.

"The ball is now very much in the management’s court.”

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.”

Bus operator Go North East has said that it will be putting on extra busses to help passengers in Durham and Tees Valley affected by Arriva strike.

Go North East has said that all its services, operating throughout Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, County Durham and the Tees Valley will be running as normal.

Extra vehicles will be deployed to offer more capacity on the Castles Express X21 service between Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor, Durham/Framwellgate Moor and Newcastle.

Larger vehicles will also be running on the Wear Xpress services which operate in the Peterlee area with connections to Hartlepool and Sunderland.

The company will also have standby resources available to support any overcrowding that may occur, so that all customers can travel without disruption on Go North East services.

Martijn Gilbert, managing director of Go North East, said: "It's really important that our existing customers know that not only will our services be operating as normal, but we will also be deploying extra resources to help cope with increased demand on routes that might be busier than usual due to the cancellation or reduction of services during this time, by other operators.

"Despite the extra cost to us of running these additional buses, our standard fares will apply and in fact we are currently running a January sale for all users of our bus services, new and existing, which offers up to 16% off weekly tickets on our smartphone app.

"The app also provides journey planning and bus tracking tools, which are particularly useful for users who might be using our services for the first time."