More than 100 Arriva bus drivers are set to strike over plans to close the Jesmond depot in a move that's set to cause travel chaos across the North East.
Bus drivers employed by operator Arriva will begin strike action on October 21 in opposition to the company’s plans to close its site on Portland Road at the end of the month. Unite union said that the closure, set to take place on Monday, October 31, threatens jobs and will result in a poorer bus service throughout Newcastle and Northumberland.
It confirmed that 97% of drivers voted in favour of the industrial action, which is set to be a continuous strike with no end date.
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Arriva is cynically seeking to boost its profits at the expense of the livelihoods and well-being of its drivers and passengers. Our members have voted decisively to defend this depot and they will receive Unite’s total support during this dispute.”
The union said the strike action will cause major disruption to passengers across the region but said the action was a "last resort" by drivers.
Unite regional officer Dave Telford: “Strike action will cause severe disruption to passengers in the short-term but the closure of the Jesmond depot will result in a permanent reduction in services for local bus users. This action is being taken as a last resort and is entirely of Arriva’s own making.
"The company needs to enter into constructive negotiations with Unite on alternatives to closure.”
Arriva has confirmed that a "small number" of drivers would be at risk of redundancy as it moves services from Jesmond to alternative locations. The bus operator said that it had sold the Jesmond depot, which is a listed building, as it is "no longer suitable for modern bus operations."
An Arriva spokeswoman said: "We are deeply disappointed to learn of intended continuous industrial action by Unite the Union involving colleagues from our Jesmond Depot from October 21. Jesmond depot is a listed building and is no longer suitable for modern bus operations, as a result we sold the depot a number of years ago.
"As part of the sale, we agreed a lease arrangement which ends this year. We are now preparing to hand the site over to the owners.
"Our plan is to continue operating the services operated from Jesmond, from alternate locations. Whilst unfortunately this has placed a small number of colleagues at risk of redundancy, drivers and engineers at Jesmond depot are being offered alternative employment and we have consulted with the team offering a generous compensation package to mitigate the impact of the location changes.
"Such unjustified strike action will have an extremely negative impact on communities across the area and we are focussed on resolving this issue as soon as possible. We call on Unite the Union to abandon their plans for this damaging and counter-productive strike action."
Bus passengers in Sunderland will also face severe disruption to services, as 200 drivers working for operator Stagecoach will strike on from Tuesday, October 11 until Saturday, October 15 in a dispute over pay.
GMB Union confirmed that 97% of members voted for industrial action after being angry that they were offered a being offered a 4% pay rise, with 2% to follow later in the year. The union says this amounts to a "real terms pay cut".
Stuart Gilhespy, GMB Organiser, said: “Sunderland bus drivers feel Stagecoach management are operating from some distant planet. They are acting as though there is no cost-of-living crisis and no inflation.
"Bosses seem happy to shortchange Sunderland’s travelling public and GMB’s hard-working members, who have frankly put their lives on the line for Stagecoach over the last few years.”
Arriva said it will publish full details of services affected by strikes on its website arrivabus.co.uk
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