THE largest bus and train operators in Kent are set to return to industrial action at the weekend, after planned strikes were cancelled following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Around 600 workers at bus company Arriva are to walk out over pay during a series of strikes that are to begin on Friday (September 30).
Unite, the union that represents the workers at depots in Gillingham, Gravesend, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, has demanded a pay rise of 12.3 per cent for its members.
The union walked out on September 5 but cancelled a series of planned strikes following the death of The Queen.
Unite said Arriva had failed to ‘grasp the nettle’ and make an improved pay offer and is now returning to industrial action.
Janet Nobbs, Unite’s Regional Officer, said: “Fresh bus strikes will inevitably cause further turmoil for passengers throughout Kent, but this dispute is entirely of Arriva’s own making.
“We recognise the inconvenience this causes and offer our sincere apologies. We continue to work as hard as we can to get normal services resumed as quickly as we can.”
“Arriva has had every opportunity to return to negotiations and make an improved offer, but it has failed even to contact Unite to seek a resolution to the dispute.”
And yesterday (Tuesday), Arriva confirmed that further industrial action will take place in October across Northfleet, Gillingham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells on October 6, 7, 10 and 11.
A spokeswoman for Arriva said the company was ‘extremely disappointed’ for all its customers by the return of industrial action by Unite.
She added: “Arriva remains committed to resolving the industrial action and continues to encourage Unite to ballot on our latest pay offer.”
Meanwhile, rail unions ASLEF and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) are also planning to return to industrial action.
ASLEF, which walked out in September before the death of The Queen is set to return to industrial action on October 1 and October 5 – the walkout has been timed to coincide with the Conservative party Conference in Birmingham that week.
“We’re expecting to run a very limited service on October 8. We strongly advise our customers to avoid travelling at these times.
The strike will likely mean Tunbridge Wells station will remain closed on the days of industrial action as train operator Southeastern is among 12 companies that will be affected by the industrial action.
ASLEF said it is in for the ‘long haul’ as the rail disputes remain deadlocked.
The RMT, which has already conducted several walkouts this summer, has announced that 40,000 of its members at Network Rail and 15 train operators – including Southeastern – will walk out on October 8.
That strike is also set to see no services run in Tunbridge Wells that day and severe disruption the following day.
Scott Brightwell, Southeastern Operations and Safety Director, said: “If these strikes go ahead there’ll be significant disruption. We are unable to run any Southeastern trains on the October 1 or October 5.
* Royal Mail workers are also set to strike this week, with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) walking out on September 30 and October 1, which will mean no postal deliveries on those days.