BUS drivers campaigning for an increase in pay have said bosses are creating a divide between workers.

Arriva staff campaigning in Darlington said they want to go back to work if a deal is made and are taking part in the strike as a last resort.

One worker said: “You get told in training people are the most precious cargo but if that is true then why is someone who is being paid to deliver fruit and veg on a higher wage than us? It is because those companies value their workers more than Arriva does.

“People don’t realise the stress and responsibility that comes with the job. If we have a bad day at work it could result in a jail sentence, you have people’s lives in your hands.”

A spokesperson from Arriva said many of the drivers on the strike were openly questioning why they were out instead of working.

The company said the seven-day strike is causing considerable transport disruption and inconvenience to passengers in the North-East.

The Northern Echo:

In a letter to the strikers Arrive said: “Following extensive negotiations we made a substantial offer of 7.6 per cent over two years, together with a reduction in the time taken, from five years to three years, for drivers to achieve the top rate of pay in future. We also guaranteed a further increase in fourteen months’ time.

“Our offer will add 10% to our payroll - a significant increase in our operational costs.

“Last week we produced a wages comparison to demonstrate that this deal ensures Arriva Durham drivers are far from being bottom of the ladder when pay is measured against other Arriva regions and competitor bus companies. Especially so, when cost of living indices are applied in order to provide a fair and realistic benchmark.

"So, with respect, my question is: why is the strike continuing when the union has achieved what it asked for?”

The Northern Echo:

Workers on the picket line in Darlington

One worker on strike said: “They say we are on less wages because other regions have a higher cost of living but how can they say that? If you go to Morrisons for a loaf of bread, it’s going to be the same no matter where you go.

"They're paying workers in Northumbria much more than us but I don't understand how they can justify that as there is no difference between the areas. It's creating a North North divide.

“We do the same job so would like to be paid the same. We want to go back to work as we’re losing money while on strike.”

Many of the drivers said they were grateful for the support of the public and would urge others to back the cause to end the strike action and persuade bosses to comply.

One of the Arriva customers supporting the strike was Darlington resident Marie Pearson.

She said the amount of abuse and trouble she has seen drivers be subject to was worth the pay increase.

She said: “I agree they should go on strike. The bus drivers put up with a lot especially from young people."

Other customers disagreed and said the strike was a huge inconvenience.