Bus strikes on cards over 'pitiful' pay offer

London, Essex and Kent braced for bus delays as Arriva drivers ballot for strikes

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Bus passengers across London, Essex and Kent are facing severe disruption this spring, as bus drivers employed by Arriva ballot for industrial action following a ‘pitiful’ pay offer.

Over 1,300 drivers are being balloted for strike action after being offered a pay increase of just 1.5 per cent; a sizeable real terms pay cut when the retail price index (RPI) inflation rate is currently 7.5 per cent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Arriva’s bus drivers are no longer prepared to accept ‘pitiful’ pay rises, which amount to real terms pay cuts.

“Unite is the union which always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. Our members at Arriva will be receiving the union’s total support until the company makes an acceptable pay offer.”

Ballot papers will be begin to be sent to the drivers, who are members of Unite today (February 1). The ballot closes on Tuesday, March 1. If the drivers vote for industrial action then strikes could begin by the middle of next month.

The dispute involves Arriva drivers who operate from South London bus depots in Brixton, Croydon, Norwood and Thornton Heath and drivers based at the company’s Dartford depot in Kent and the Grays depot in Essex.

The drivers are particularly angry as their pay offer is less than half of what drivers in Arriva North West secured after voting for industrial action in autumn 2021.

Unite regional officer John Murphy said, “Our members were hailed as heroes as they kept driving throughout the pandemic to ensure that others could get to work. They now being treated with contempt by Arriva which is putting the interests of shareholders above its drivers.

“If strike action takes place this spring it will cause enormous disruption across London, Essex and Kent,” he added. “A resolution to this dispute is in Arriva’s hands, if it is prepared to make a reasonable offer then negotiations can resume and an agreement could be reached.”

A recent UK wide survey of Unite bus activists has revealed that bus driver shortages are far higher than had previously been claimed and that 79 per cent said that vacancies at their depot had increased since the pandemic began. The most common explanation for drivers leaving was low rates of pay.

By Barckley Sumner

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