Last-ditch talks to avert Arriva bus strike that would affect Scarborough and Whitby passengers

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Last-ditch talks are taking place in the hope of averting a bus strike that will affect Whitby and Scarborough passengers.

About 650 bus drivers in the north east working for Arriva Durham County Ltd are due to take a week’s strike action from Sunday 16 December in a dispute over pay.

Among the affected services would be the popular X93 between Middlesbrough and Scarborough, that goes through Whitby and various villages outside the two towns, and in winter runs every hour.

Also affected would be Whitby's park and ride, the number 95 Eskdale to Sleights service and the X4 Loftus to Whitby.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that the crux of the dispute was the belief that bus drivers working for Arriva Durham County Ltd were the second lowest paid drivers of all the Arriva bus companies across the UK.

Drivers at Darlington, Durham, Redcar, Stockton and Whitby are set to walk out at 00.01 on 16 December until 23.59 on Saturday 22 December, after voting by 95 per cent for strike action in pursuit of a £1 an hour pay rise for the year starting March 2018.

But last-ditch talks between Arriva North East bosses and union representatives began on Wednesday and are ongoing. It is not yet clear if the strike is still going ahead or not.

Unite regional officer Bob Bolam said: “The last thing our members want is to take such industrial action in the run-up to Christmas as it will cause massive inconvenience to the travelling public. If the strike goes ahead, we don’t believe Arriva will be able to run more than a few ‘token’ bus services.

“Our members have voted overwhelmingly for pay justice and are not prepared to continue to badly lag behind other Arriva drivers in the country doing similar jobs.”

Arriva claims Unite is asking for a 20%-plus pay rise, a reduction in driving hours and paid meal breaks.

Arriva managing director Nigel Featham, said: “We urge our drivers to re-consider this extreme action that hurts our passengers, our employees and, ultimately, our ability to make pay increases. In our view a 20%-plus pay demand is excessive, unreasonable and ill-timed in the present economic climate.”

Services in North Yorkshire, Teesside, Cleveland and Durham would be affected. Arriva says it will post details of the affected routes on its website and Twitter (@arrivanortheast).