Newbury and District Bus Company branded “UK’s meanest”

Bus drivers to take strike action after four years of pay freezes

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Newbury and District Bus Company has been branded the “UK’s meanest’ bus operator after a group of drivers were forced to announce strike action after not receiving a pay rise for four years.

The affected drivers, who are members of Unite were TUPE transferred to their present employer from Reading Buses in 2020 and operate a service for West Berkshire council, including operating school buses.

While all other drivers at Newbury bus company have received a 5.7 per cent pay increase, the company has again frozen the affected drivers pay, blaming the increased cost of diesel, infrastructure and engineering costs.

As a consequence, the drivers have overwhelmingly voted for strike action and will stage seven days of walkouts on 6, 7, 10, 14 19, 20 and 21 July. The strikes will affect bus services across the Newbury area and especially school bus services.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Newbury and District Bus Company is guilty of being the meanest operator in the UK. Continually denying workers a pay rise during a cost of living crisis is indefensible.

“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. Our members at Newbury and District Bus Company will receive the union’s total support.”

The company has said the workers will only receive a pay increase if they accept inferior contracts that will significantly reduce their sick pay.

Due to the continuous pay freezes, the affected drivers are paid just £12.55 an hour, rising to £13.22 for working weekends. The other Newbury drivers receive £13 an hour and £15.50 for weekend work.

Robert Williams chief executive of Reading Buses, the parent company of Newbury bus company, recently said: “At Newbury and District we don’t just believe in attracting new employees, but being fair and rewarding to our existing employees as well.”

The drivers involved in the dispute strongly disagree with this statement.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Scott Kemp said, “The strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption throughout the Newbury area, but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making. It has had every opportunity to make our members a fair pay increase but has chosen not to. The company needs to make a fair pay offer and return to the negotiating table.

“Robert Williams claims his company is fair to existing employees but the way he is treating our members couldn’t be further from the truth.”

By Barckley Sumner