Bus drivers and supporters protest against cuts to bus roots (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Across Britain bus workers are fighting to transform an industry the bosses are intent on destroying. After already striking for 27 days in a row, some 1,800 bus drivers employed by Arriva North West will conclude voting on an improved pay offer.

The new offer of 9.6 ­percent is much higher than the initial pitiful offer of just 3 percent, or 6 percent if they give up their sick pay. But it still falls short of being inflation busting. It follows continuous action by Arriva Yorkshire workers who won a ­9­ ­percent pay deal—still a real terms pay cut.

Workers in Birkenhead—if they accept—would get paid £14.80 an hour. But because of pay grade disparity, those in Winsford would receive just £12.14. The vote count will be announced on Tuesday evening, as Socialist Worker went to press.

The Unite union isn’t advising their members on the pay offer. What’s clear is that the brilliant action taken by the workers has shaken the Arriva bosses. Workers must reject this offer and demand that all drivers receive the same pay grade. And the bosses should be becoming increasingly worried as strikes spread.

Around 900 Arriva bus workers in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire announced strike dates, having voted to stage walkouts on Friday of last week. And 1,400 bus workers in north London and 1,300 in Kent and Essex are also ­balloting for strikes. United action across Britain would hit Arriva profits hard.

Two weeks ago Arriva negotiators told Unite reps that a double figure offer isn’t possible. They want to set a low benchmark for the upcoming strikes in order to protect profits. Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn—the richest transport company in the world.

Arriva’s bus division gave half a billion pounds in profits to the parent company’s shareholders. And, over the last 10 years, Deutsche Bahn has banked £5.9 billion in profits. There is money for an above-inflation pay deal, and workers can win it through united action.

This is even more important as more attacks on bus workers and the passengers that rely on them are on their way. As Covid grants expire, hundreds of services could be cut nationwide, with around one in three south Yorkshire services expected to be reduced.

Cuts will happen despite the government awarding firms more than £1.1 ­billion under its bus service improvement plan. For example, even though Kent county council received £35 million, it will cut dozens of routes. Bus operator Nexus in the north east of England said about 100 buses a day had been cut since March, and more cuts are on the way.

London bus cuts rally

Protesters assembled in Finsbury Park, north London, to stop bus cuts on Saturday of last week. Workers and passengers, including those from the Unite union, joined the demonstration and vowed to join future protests. As Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday a protest was held in Thanet, Kent, outside the Stagecoach depot.

Activists are demanding the survival of three routes which will are set to be cut at the end of the month. And more protests are planned, with workers and passengers organising a demonstration at Mornington Crescent, north London, on Saturday at 11am.

A rally will assemble at Parliament Square on 6 September, marching to the department of transport to save 16 routes.

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