The Arriva North West strike that has brought large swathes of the Liverpool and Merseyside bus service to a stand still heads into its third week after talks between the operator and unions broke down on Monday.
The travel operator has seen over 1,800 workers walk out across the region, in a dispute over pay and conditions, leading to severe disruption of its services.
The only service left running in Liverpool is the Clatterbridge Hospital shuttle service, which is continuing to run as planned.
Workers first walked out on July 20 and although talks resumed this week, union’s say the ‘new’ offer from Arriva was the same as the one they rejected last month.
Arriva insist the offer is ‘very generous’ and is disappointed at the union’s stace.
‘Same offer’ - What the unions says
Dave Roberts, regional officer for Unite the Union, said: “Arriva got in touch saying they wanted to meet and they were going to make an improved offer. However, when we got to the meeting and listened to the proposal, it’s the same offer they’ve been putting out to the press at 8.5%, and that’s what they presented to us again.
“So, I don’t understand how this is an improved offer. Then to go back away and make a statement, we’ve made an improved offer and a generous offer. It’s the same offer we rejected three weeks ago.”
Mr Roberts added: “The next step for us is to escalate this. This is the only first part of our dispute. We can go further with other plans as well. I’m hoping that people will take what we are doing as a positive and see this is something they could push into their workplaces as well.”
‘Unreasonable stance’ - What Arriva say
In a statement, Arriva said: “We are extremely disappointed that despite further negotiations today with Unite and GMB and a very generous improved offer, the Unions have once again walked away without even agreeing to put our offer to their members. This means we continue to face ongoing strike action across the North West region, causing continued misery for passengers.
“We have worked tirelessly to reach an agreement on a way forward, today making an offer that would have seen our drivers being the highest paid in the region, with no changes to current employee benefits and a lump sum of backdated pay to April 1, 2022.
“Our customers will share our frustration at the union’s unreasonable stance. We are seeking to engage ACAS to help bring a resolution to this situation, and we urge Unite and GMB to immediately reconsider their position, call an end to strike action and give their members the opportunity to ballot on our generous pay rise.”
Bus services taken back into public control
In March, Liverpool City Region local leaders voted unanimously to confirm franchising as the region’s preferred future model for running the bus network and services – a move that would reverse the industry’s deregulation in the mid-1980s.
This would signal a major reform of its buses in a move that would see services taken back into public control.
At present, the Combined Authority invests £64m a year in supporting the bus network, including subsidising socially necessary bus routes that are not commercially viable for commercial bus operators and payments to bus operators for providing free concessionary travel.