Arriva North West workers voted to reject a below-inflation pay offer on Tuesday

Unite union officials suspended the Arriva North West bus strike on Wednesday—before consulting workers on a new pay offer. Unite said the workers, who’ve been on an all-out strike since 20 July, will “return to work from tomorrow and be balloted on the offer”.

The move is an outrage to democracy. It raises a basic question, “Who controls disputes—officials or rank-and-file members?”

The suspension came the day after the 1,800 workers at 11 depots overwhelmingly voted to reject a below-inflation pay offer and stay on the picket line. They threw out the offer of 9.6 percent despite Unite making no recommendation on whether to accept or reject it in the ballot.

Yet now workers will return to work and have two days to vote on bosses’ new proposals of 11.1 percent. This time Unite is recommending workers accept what’s still a real-terms pay cut.

Unite regional officer, Dave Roberts said, “Following our members’ very strong rejection of the company’s offer yesterday evening, Arriva have seen sense and met the demands of our members by tabling an 11.1 per cent pay deal. 

“Unite’s negotiating team is recommending the offer be accepted and it is being put to members in a vote.”

The vote to reject had Arriva bosses’ running scared—which led to them making a new offer. But Unite officials should have pressed home the advantage to win an inflation-busting pay rise.

The move came on the same day that inflation soared to another record high. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that the bosses’ preferred CPI measure had hit 10.1 percent.

In reality, the scale of the social emergency facing working class people is even bigger. The more accurate RPI measure of inflation, which includes housing costs, now stands at 12.3 percent and is predicted to keep going up.

Pay disparity between depots and grades is large. Drivers at Winsford are paid just £11.08 compared to about £13.50 for drivers in Birkenhead for the same work. If the deal is accepted, workers at Winsford will be paid just £12.30 when the cost of living soars and inflation hits 12.3 percent.

The fight against Arriva bosses is growing around the country. Strikes are set to hit Arriva bosses in Kent, Essex, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire after 1700 workers rejected 4 to 7.8 percent pay offers. And workers in Kent and north London are all currently being balloted to strike.

There is a new mood of resistance as the cost of living crisis deepens, and workers take inspiration from the RMT and CWU unions’ strikes. Unions should be spreading the action. 

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