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Arriva bus drivers in Kent set to strike affecting bus timetables in Maidstone, Medway, Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells

Arriva bus drivers will go on strike affecting dozens of services across the county next week.

The strike is the first of four days of walk-outs planned after 600 members of the Unite union in Kent voted to take industrial action over a pay dispute.

Arriva bus drivers will strike on Monday
Arriva bus drivers will strike on Monday

The first action will see drivers walk-out on Monday and there are further strikes planned during the month, the union confirmed.

Other strike days are planned for Friday, September 16. Tuesday, September 20 and Friday, September 30. Further strike action could follow in October if the dispute is not resolved.

Unite polled its members at depots in Gillingham, Maidstone, Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells last month, and they voted by a margin of 96.5% to take industrial action.

At the time, Arriva was offering a pay rise of 7.8%.

At an emergency meeting between the two sides held last Thursday, Arriva increased its offer to almost 10% but the union declined pointing to inflation currently running at 12.3% as measured by July's Retail Price Index, and predicted to rise still further.

The Unite union's general secretary Sharon Graham
The Unite union's general secretary Sharon Graham

Unite described the offer as "a real terms pay cut".

Unite's general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Arriva and Deutsche Bahn, their parent company, are incredibly wealthy. They can fully afford to give our members a decent pay rise, but have chosen not to.

“Unite’s members have rightly rejected a real terms pay-cut masquerading as a pay rise and they will be receiving the union’s total support throughout this dispute.”

Arriva says a reduced service timetable is set to be introduced during the strike but further details or numbers about the exact number of bus routes and services affected have not yet been confirmed.

Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn which is one of the largest transport companies in the world and is effectively owned by the German government.

In the last 10 years, Arriva’s UK bus division has paid £560 million in profits to Deutsche Bahn.

Unite regional officer Janet Nobbs said: “Bus strikes will inevitably cause severe disruption across Kent, but this dispute is entirely of Arriva’s own making. Arriva has had every opportunity to resolve this dispute."

'We are extremely disappointed industrial action will take place'

An Arriva spokesman said: "Despite further negotiations with our Union partner, we are extremely disappointed for all our customers to confirm that industrial action will take place across Northfleet, Gillingham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells on Monday.

"Arriva remains committed to resolving the dispute and we would encourage Unite to ballot its members again on our latest pay offer.

"We will continue to keep customers informed."

The planned action by Arriva bus drivers in Essex has been called off after workers there accepted the improved offer.

The strike does not affect other bus companies.

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