Jack Sargeant tells Arriva “paying drivers less money in Wales for same job is not acceptable”
Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant has thrown his weight behind striking bus drivers and blamed bus operator Arriva for the disruption to services.
Approximately 400 bus drivers across the region are currently on the third day of a strike.
The industrial action was called by the Unite union after the company refused to match its pay offer in Wales with the 39p offer it made to bus drivers in north-west England.
Pay talks resumed on Tuesday in a bid to reach a deal between the drivers and the company but no agreement has been reached as yet.
Asking an urgent question on the floor of the Senedd on Wednesday, Jack Sargeant highlighted how Arriva are paying drivers on either side of the border completely different rates for the same job.
Jack wants Arriva to take negotiations seriously and get round the table with a proper offer to drivers who have been left with no choice but to go on strike.
He said in his question: “I will start by saying that, like these drivers, I’m a proud member of Unite the Union. These drivers live in the communities they serve, and the last thing they want to do is be on strike, but they are in this position because Arriva pay different rates for the same job, exactly the same job, just across the border.”
“Frankly, I think that is ridiculous. These drivers drive past each other on the same roads.”
“The disparity with the north west has now increased from £1.81 to £2.20. ”
“I am clear that these drivers are right, and I support them in their calls for parity and fairness.”
“So, with that in mind, Minister, what can the Welsh Government do to support these drivers?”
“And finally, Minister, I must comment and say that it is Tory deregulation, under a Thatcher-led Government, that failed the industry, and it’s failed our communities, and our colleague Ken Skates was brave enough to say that during his time in the Welsh Government. ”
“So, how do we ensure, in the future, we do have bus operators that serve our communities and the travelling public across Wales?”
Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change responded, he said: “Can I just say, at the beginning, that we hope that industrial action can be avoided so that passengers are not further disrupted?”
“But, to seize on what Jack Sargeant said there about the impact of Conservative deregulation since the 1980s, this is a profound factor at play here. ”
“Since deregulation, bus drivers’ wages have risen at a far slower rate than the average rates for similar occupations.”
“So, there is a direct relationship between the regulation and the rates of pay, and it is our intention to address deregulation and bring in a franchising system.”
“We want to see one ticket, one timetable and one fare across the whole of Wales, and, as part of that, one set of terms of conditions for the workforce. ”
“We’ll be bringing forward a bus strategy and a bus White Paper in the new year, ahead of bringing in new legislation that we hope will not only improve terms of conditions for the workforce, but make bus a far more viable option for more people, as part of our efforts to tackle climate change.”
The strike has impacted on bus services across the north and is proposed to continue until December 19th unless there is a resolution.
Last week, a spokesperson for Arriva Buses Wales said: “We are extremely disappointed that despite extensive discussions and a number of improved offers, which would have increased our driver pay to £11.59 per hour back-paid to January 2021 and a further increase to £12.00 per hour in 2022, our customers are still facing a strike this Sunday with no Arriva Buses Wales services able to run if it goes ahead.”
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