A WEEK-long bus driver strike looks set to go ahead in ten days' time after last-ditch talks broke down between transport company Arriva and trade union Unite.

Drivers have voted to go on strike for seven days from Sunday, December 16 which is expected to cause huge transport disruption across North Yorkshire, Cleveland, Teesside and Durham.

Negotiations between management and unions through mediator ACAS broke down as both sides failed to reach an agreement over a pay dispute.

Drivers at depots in Redcar and Whitby, Darlington, Durham and Stockton voted unanimously to back industrial action in November, resulting in the planned seven-day strike during the pre-Christmas period.

Unite says 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 Arriva bus companies in the UK.

Union regional organiser Bob Bolam said on Thursday: "The company made an offer on pay and Unite made a counter-offer, which the management considered and declined the proposal.

"In the meantime, we are preparing for the week-long strike action due to start on Sunday December 16.

"However, we appreciate that such action will cause massive disruption to the travelling public in the North-East in the run-up to Christmas, so Unite's door is open for constructive talks 24/7."

Drivers are asking for a £1-an-hour pay rise for the year starting March 2018.

Arriva claims that adds up to a 21 per cent rise in its overall wage bill and claims it has tabled an improved pay offer worth 7.5 per cent for drivers. However, one source said the 'improved deal' was actually worse than the first offer once it was worked out in full.

Arriva managing director for the region, Nigel Featham, said: “We urge our drivers to reconsider this extreme action that hurts our passengers, our employees and, ultimately, our ability to make pay increases.

"In our view a 20 per cent plus pay demand is excessive, unreasonable and ill-timed in the present economic climate.”