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December strikes loom as bus drivers reject offer

Arriva bus drivers have voted to reject the latest pay offer in their stand-off with the transport operator, making it more likely the nine strike days announced for December, plus Monday 27 November, will go ahead.

Industrial action was announced last week, meaning that on the affected days, Arriva services will not run in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. Cheshire will also be affected, although services run from the Chester depot will run.

Phil Stone, managing director for Arriva North West, said: “We are deeply disappointed that people in Merseyside and the wider North West are facing yet more disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

“Arriva North West has proposed a fair and competitive pay rise to staff – 2.6% rising to 3% for the six garages in Merseyside and Runcorn. The offer follows years of consecutive pay rises above inflation at a time of significant pay restraint across other industries in the region. To put this into context, we have increased pay for our drivers by 10.2% over four years. This latest pay offer will mean an average driver will earn an additional £756 per annum.”

Union GMB however, said that the pay offer amounted to just one pence per hour, describing it as a “kick in the teeth”. Both GMB and Unite members are striking.  The deal was rejected by two separate ballots in votes counted in Liverpool this morning.

Eddie Parker, GMB organiser, said: “It comes as no surprise GMB and Unite members voted to reject this offer by an overwhelming majority.

“A pay increase of just one pence per hour is nothing more than a kick in the teeth to our hard-working members who keep the North West moving every day. Arriva pays directors millions, yet can’t afford to give staff the wages they need to pay the rent and put food on their families’ tables.

“Instead of sitting back, trousering their massive salaries, Arriva’s top brass need to stop and think about the wellbeing of their staff, and how the people in the North West are going to get to work every day.”

The issue is particularly pressing in the Liverpool city region, where transport users have also been affected by strikes on Merseyrail over the proposed introduction of driver-operated trains.

Arriva said that the terms offered to its staff are the best of any bus company operating in the region, including a final salary pension, 34 days holiday including Bank Holidays, company sick pay scheme, free bus travel for families, fully funded driver training, and enhanced rates for weekend working alongside other benefits

It said: “We believe that it is now time for proper mediated talks with the unions to break the deadlock so our staff and passengers can get back to normal before Christmas.

“We therefore, urge the union to reconsider resolving this dispute by carrying out a confidential postal ballot of all union members, including the 250 engineering staff not previously included in the ballot for the new pay offer. We also strongly suggest, in the interests of staff and passengers, of returning to ACAS to act as the mediator going forward.”

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