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Arriva bus drivers across Medway vote to go back to work after dispute resolved - for the time being

By Lizzie Massey

The dispute over new timetables which has affected more than 200 Arriva bus drivers in the Medway towns has been resolved - for the time being.

The drivers and members of Unite voted today to accept a new set of timetables by a large margin – but with the proviso that they will revisit the issue at the end of March to see if they are working satisfactorily.

More than 200 drivers first downed tools over what they regard as “unachievable and unsafe” timetables on Friday, December 4.

Drivers on the picket line on Friday. Picture: Steve Crispe.

A second 24-hour strike took place the following Monday and workers gained wide-scale support as they picketed outside Arriva’s depot in Nelson Road, Gillingham.

But the Unite union called off the planned action on Monday December 14 as a festive “goodwill gesture” to its customers.

Unite regional officer Dave Weeks said: “Today our driver members voted to accept the new set of proposals which have been hammered out in tough negotiations with the Arriva management.

“However, the drivers made it crystal clear that if these new duty rosters are still causing problems in a couple of months time, we will revisit the issue at the end of March.

An Arriva bus

“Throughout this dispute, Unite has always said that, while we are concerned about the welfare of our members, we also want to ensure that bus passengers in Medway feel reassured that they are travelling in a safe environment.”

Had the dispute gone unresolved, drivers were threatening to walk out again on January 4, causing chaos on the first day the children go back to school after the Christmas break.

Around 800 people signed a petition against the changes and saw a number of services in the Towns dropped or changed.

Drivers said they were spending excessive time at the wheel, with little or no opportunity for so much as a comfort break.

Gillingham Bus Depot, Nelson Road, Gillingham. Arriva drivers on strike.

The services affected cover the Medway towns of Chatham, Gillingham, Hoo Peninsula, Rainham, Rochester, and Strood.

Simon Baxter from Arriva said: "We're delighted that we've resolved the issues that we had with the union.

"What we'd like to do now is get back to focusing on some of the issues we had with the network.

"We're very happy we've come to a mutually acceptable solution."

New routes will come into force across Arriva's Medway network on January 24 and Mr Baxter said these are "much improved for passengers and drivers".

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