Eight hundred Unite members employed as bus drivers by Arriva in Kent and Essex, are being balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay.
The ballot closes on Friday, August 12 and if the workers vote for industrial action then strikes could begin before the end of next month.
Despite extensive negotiations Arriva has only been prepared to offer a 7.8 per cent pay increase, which is a substantial pay cut with the real inflation rate (RPI) currently standing at 11.8 per cent. The bus drivers earn as little as £12.12 an hour.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Arriva and its parent company, Deutsche Bahn, are fabulously wealthy and can fully afford to make our members a decent pay offer. The company is prioritising paying dividends to shareholders over decent wages for workers.
“Unite will provide its members with the union’s total support until a pay offer which meets members’ expectations is made, which would resolve the dispute.”
Arriva is hugely wealthy, it is part of German company Deutsche Bahn one of the largest transport companies in the world. In the last 10 years Deutsche Bahn has made profits of £5.9 billion. During that time it has made profits of £560 million from running UK buses. In the same timeframe Deutsche Bahn has paid £4.3 billion in dividends to its owner, the government of Germany.
The drivers are based at depots in Colchester, Harlow and Southend-on-Sea in Essex and in Gillingham, Maidstone, Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
If the workers vote for industrial action it will create considerable disruption to the bus network across both counties.
Unite regional officer Janet Nobbs added, “Passengers in Kent and Essex will be worried about potential disruption to services but this dispute is of Arriva’s own making. Despite extensive negotiations it has refused to make a fair offer to its workforce.
“Strike action could still be avoided if the company returns to the negotiating table and makes an improved offer.”
Unite is currently involved in a continuous all out strike of Arriva members in the North West and is balloting its members in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire for industrial action.
By Barckley Sumner