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Arriva bus drivers balloted on potential walk-out over plan for 'spies' on services

By Nicola Jordan

Nearly 200 bus drivers across Medway are threatening to strike over management plans to plant “spies” on board to check on their driving and manners.

Arriva Southern Counties wants to introduce a scheme to put independent strangers on buses to help raise awareness of driving ability and customer care.

The bus operator has used the PRIDE Driver Quality Monitoring (DQM) policy and procedure in other parts of the country for more than 10 years.

Arriva buses
Arriva buses

Members of the Unite union in the southern region, which covers Medway, have taken part in a consultative ballot to gauge feeling about taking industrial action.

The turnout at seven depots, including Gillingham and Maidstone, has been between 80% and 90%, and the number in favour of a walkout could be as high as 95%, according to Unite spokesman Dave Weeks.

Mr Weeks said: “We are quite happy to go along with it in
principle. But what we do have an issue with is what are the required standards being asked of us? What are we being judged on? We have never really had any customer service training unlike in other areas. All our drivers are licensed to drive buses, but are they looking for an advanced stage which might require more training?”

Dave Weeks, regional officer at Unite the Union, says the plan is tantamount to "spying"
Dave Weeks, regional officer at Unite the Union, says the plan is tantamount to "spying"

“We are essentially being spied upon and we have not been told of the implications. Presumably it could lead to disciplinary hearings.”

An Arriva spokesman said: “Some members of the union have concerns over the policy which we are working through at the moment with them. All drivers do get basic customer care training as part of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence and this gets refreshed periodically on an ongoing basis as part of the certification.

“This initiative is part of our drive towards making the bus a real option for people, who these days demand the highest customer care for their money, and we hope to persuade the union that this is beneficial to all parties, especially our customers.”

Arriva drivers at an earlier strike action
Arriva drivers at an earlier strike action

PRIDE DQM set out the purpose of the exercise in a report which said: “The use of a third party enables us to guarantee an independent and impartial assessment.”

Arriva would be able to target drivers who are “incident prone” or who are the subject of customer complaints.

Drivers who scored well might get a certificate and those who get top marks in driving standards and customer service could be awarded High Street vouchers.

Faults in driving should be remedied with extra training, and customer service shortfalls by interviews with management.

Anyone who fails to show improvement after reassessment and training should go through normal depot disciplinary procedures.

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