Leeds bus passengers to face severe disruption as Arriva workers announce strike action over `pitiful’ pay

Bus passengers across Leeds and Yorkshire are braced for substantial strike action next month as workers challenge Arriva’s failure to tackle low pay.

By Alex Grant
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 11:45 am

Over 650 members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, have recorded 96 per cent vote in favour of strike action following the company’s pitiful offer of a 4.1 per cent pay increase.

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This offer stands far below the reported real inflation rate (RPI) which currently stands at 11.1 per cent.

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Unite says that German-owned Arriva’s low pay across Yorkshire means bus workers are struggling to make ends meet amid the cost of living crisis. Picture: PA.

Indefinite (all out) strike action will begin on Monday, June 6 involving bus drivers and engineers based at depots in Castleford, Dewsbury, Heckmondwike, Selby and Wakefield.

Unite says that German-owned Arriva’s low pay across Yorkshire means bus workers are struggling to make ends meet amid the cost of living crisis.

Newly recruited bus drivers are paid only £9.78 an hour - just 28 pence above the minimum wage

“Arriva is part of a multi-billion company. It has no business demanding that workers get by on pitiful low pay so that its boardroom can get ever-richer. Arriva can easily afford to pay decently - it should do just that, or face industrial action." said, Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham.

“Unite’s members, like all workers, are being pummelled by the cost of living crisis - they cannot and will not accept a real terms pay cut. Unite will be giving our members its full and total support until this dispute is resolved.”

In a statement provided to the YEP, Arriva stated their hope that strike action could still be avoided with further talks planned.

"We remain keen to reach an agreement with Unite and continue to work towards this, with further talks agreed, ahead of June 6. We fully understand concerns about the rising cost of living, that workers throughout the UK are facing." said, a spokesperson.

"We want to give our colleagues a pay rise however, it is important that pay offers are affordable and reflect the economic pressures the bus sector also face at this time. Strike action would cause disruption to our customers and the communities we serve, and would undermine bus travel as we start to recover from the pandemic.

"We are aware that the union wish to continue discussion and would encourage them to work with us to find a way forward.”

Matthew Topham, a campaigner at Better Buses for West Yorkshire, said:

"Bus drivers kept us going during the pandemic. Arriva has offered them the reward of a real-terms pay cut, all while bad breaks, timetables, and facilities make the job increasingly unbearable.

"The stress this puts drivers under is forcing many to leave the industry, causing a shortage that has left Arriva fumbling with massive unreliability and a Sunday service on a Saturday.

"That’s why, when drivers' pay and conditions are cut, both passengers and drivers pay the price. While a strike is inconvenient for passengers right now, we know that without the action Unite members are taking to win a better deal, drivers will continue to leave and the services we rely on will continue to wither away. Arriva must deliver a liveable offer now."

Unite regional officer, Phil Bown, meanwhile has said that any disruption caused by strikes would be 'entirely of Arriva’s own making'.

“Strike action will inevitably cause significant disruption and delays for the Yorkshire travelling public but this dispute is entirely of Arriva’s own making. Our members are already suffering from poverty pay and the company is trying to make the situation even worse." he said.

“Even at this late stage strike action and the disruption it will cause can still be avoided if Arriva makes a realistic pay offer and returns to the negotiating table.”