Newbury bus drivers are to go on strike over pay.
And they have branded Newbury and District Bus Company the “UK’s meanest’ bus operator after a group of drivers announced strike action after not receiving a pay rise for four years.
Reading Buses, the parent company of Newbury bus company has been quick to assure customers that the impact will be “inconsequential”.
The affected drivers, who are members of Unite, were TUPE transferred to their present employer from Reading Buses in 2020 and operate a service for West Berkshire Council, including operating school buses.
The union says that while all other drivers at Newbury bus company have received a 5.7 per cent pay increase, the company has again frozen the affected drivers pay, blaming the increased cost of diesel, infrastructure and engineering costs.
As a consequence, the drivers have overwhelmingly voted for strike action and will stage seven days of walkouts on July 6, 7, 10, 14 19, 20 and 21. The strikes will affect bus services across the Newbury area and especially school bus services.
“Newbury and District Bus Company is guilty of being the meanest operator in the UK. Continually denying workers a pay rise during a cost of living crisis is indefensible,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.
“Unite does what it says on the trade union tin and always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. Our members at Newbury and District Bus Company will receive the union’s total support.”
The company has said the workers will only receive a pay increase if they accept contracts that will significantly reduce their sick pay.
Due to the continuous pay freezes, the affected drivers are paid just £12.55 an hour, rising to £13.22 for working weekends. The other Newbury drivers receive £13 an hour and £15.50 for weekend work.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Scott Kemp said: “The strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption throughout the Newbury area, but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making. It has had every opportunity to make our members a fair pay increase but has chosen not to. The company needs to make a fair pay offer and return to the negotiating table.”
Newbury & District say that during these periods they expect to be able to operate all services as normal, avoiding inconveniencing any of its customers.
The company also wish to be clear that the action does not affect Reading Buses Jet Black 1 service that runs to Newbury, or any school or corporate contract services.
Chief executive officer Robert Williams said: “We are very disappointed about the negativity and uncertainty that this may generate. We continue to discuss ways forward with the employees in a positive manner to try and address their concerns.”
West Berkshire Council said: “Newbury and District Bus Company have notified the council that some of its members of staff may be on strike on selected days in July. However, they have assured us that they are expecting to be able to operate a full service as normal on all routes on any days that a strike takes place.
“Any comments about the dispute should be addressed directly to Newbury and District Bus Company.”