Hundreds of bus drivers in north east England are preparing to stage another blistering strike against poverty pay.
Around 650 workers in Teesside, North Yorkshire and County Durham struck for seven days last week.
And the Unite union members could walk out for ten days from 27 January if talks this week don’t result in a new deal.
They are fighting for an extra £1 an hour, backdated from March 2018.
Workers rejected a previous offer of 75p more an hour, paid in four instalments over two years.
This was offered to drivers shortly before Christmas, in an effort to get a planned seven-day strike from 16 December called off.
One striker said that drivers were “told in training that people are the most precious cargo”.
They said, “If that is true then why is someone who is being paid to deliver fruit and veg on a higher wage than us? It is because those companies value their workers more than Arriva does.”
A vicious war of words has erupted over the dispute, with Arriva bosses insisting workers are paid at a competitive rate.
But strikers in Darlington disputed their claims.
“They’re paying workers in Northumberland much more than us but I don’t understand how they can justify that as there is no difference between the areas,” one said.
The bus strikes caused travel chaos across the County Durham region and beyond, and emergency timetables have been staffed by scab drivers.
Hundreds of drivers turned out on the picket lines. Drivers picketed in shifts and received solidarity from other trade unionists and local residents. In Redcar local cafes offered strikers free hot drinks and one person brought a sack of potatoes to the picket line.
The company operated a “contingency bus service” during the strike and buses were free to all passengers.
And Arriva North East’s Nick Knox complained that drivers’ action could cause “long-term damage” to the firm. Fresh talks from Thursday of this week could lead to a new deal.
Bob Bolam, Unite regional officer said, “We will be entering into these talks in a constructive and positive frame of mind.
“We have had excellent solidarity from our members during this week’s strike and they were especially heartened by the support shown by their local communities.”
Thanks to Geoff Kerr-Morgan