THERE are no Arriva bus services in Cheshire and Wirral today as staff walk-out again in an ongoing pay dispute.

Talks to avert more bus strikes broke up on Thursday after Arriva North West bosses offered an increase of a penny to the hourly rate that was described as 'a kick in the teeth' by the GMB union.

As well as the strike action today (November 27), more than 2,000 bus drivers and engineering staff voted to walk out for nine days in the run-up to Christmas on December 4, 7, 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22 and 23.

Commenting on the unions' rejection of the pay offer Phil Stone, managing director for Arriva North West, said: "We are deeply disappointed that people in Merseyside and the wider North West are facing yet more disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

"Arriva North West has proposed a fair and competitive pay rise to staff – 2.6% rising to 3% for the six garages in Merseyside and Runcorn.

"The offer follows years of consecutive pay rises above inflation at a time of significant pay restraint across other industries in the region.

"To put this into context, we have increased pay for our drivers by 10.2% over four years.

"This latest pay offer will mean an average driver will earn an additional £756 per annum.

"An extended strike in the run-up to Christmas will have a serious impact on people’s lives and the local economy.

"We believe that it is now time for proper mediated talks with the Unions to break the deadlock so our staff and passengers can get back to normal before Christmas.

"We, therefore, urge the Union to reconsider resolving this dispute by carrying out a confidential postal ballot of all union members, including the 250 engineering staff not previously included in the ballot for the new pay offer.

"We also strongly suggest, in the interests of staff and passengers, of returning to ACAS to act as the mediator going forward."

GMB Organiser Eddie Parker said: "It comes as no surprise GMB and Unite members voted to reject this offer by an overwhelming majority.

“A pay increase of just one pence per hour is nothing more than a kick in the teeth to our hard-working members who keep the North West moving every day.

“Arriva pays directors millions, yet can’t afford to give staff the wages they need to pay the rent and put food on their families’ tables.

“Instead of sitting back, trousering their massive salaries, Arriva's top brass need to stop and think about the wellbeing of their staff, and how the people in the North West are going to get to work every day."

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