A NORTH EAST bus company has been hit with criticism as concerns have been raised over hours and pay conditions at its depot in Darlington.

Arriva North East has been accused of "upping" weekly hours and changing driver rest days with "little" notice in a bid to make up for staff shortages due to Covid.

Meanwhile, the firm which operates services across Durham, Darlington and Teesside could potentially see strike action after a one percent pay rise was rejected.

Arriva has since responded saying that it has had to make "some adjustments" due to staff being contacted by NHS Test and Trace, as it said pay talks are currently ongoing.

Read more: Arriva respond as rival firm forced to run Durham and Darlington services due to 'sickness'

The Northern Echo understands that drivers at its Faverdale depot have seen shifts lengthened beyond their usual contracted hours, and in some cases without staff knowing. 

The Northern Echo: Arriva has been forced to cancel some services Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTArriva has been forced to cancel some services Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

It has also been claimed that rest days have been changed within a matter of days, instead of around a fortnight's notice, as the depot suffers from driver shortages.

One worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that drivers were only informed of a new emergency rota, effective from this Sunday, earlier this week on Monday. 

They said the changes, which had meant those who had booked time off had now been told to come into work, had been done without staff being made aware.

Throughout this week, Arriva North East has been warning customers across its social media to expect disruption to some services due to "high levels" of driver absence.

On Wednesday, the company said that services operating routes in County Durham, Darlington, Teesside and North Yorkshire had been mainly affected. 

The concerns came as the company could face further disruption as a ballot held across the company saw a proposed pay offer of one percent rejected by drivers.

An internal memo placed in the depot in Darlington showed ballot results which revealed the overwhelming majority - 81 percent of drivers did not accept the pay offer.

Meanwhile, the memo, which was seen by The Northern Echo, said 87 percent of them would be "willing to support industrial action," including strike action, over the issue.

The Northern Echo: Drivers voted against a pay rise earlier this month Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTDrivers voted against a pay rise earlier this month Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Arriva North East said that it had been forced to make "adjustments" to staffing due to drivers self-isolating in order to continue running services.

The firm also said it continued to work closely with its workers to address any issues that they have.

A company spokesperson said: “Like many organisations we have a number of employees that have been told to self-isolate due to colleagues being contacted by NHS Test and Trace or the Covid 19 app. 

"Due to this we have needed to make some adjustments to ensure that we continue to operate services for our customers and the communities we serve.

"We greatly appreciate the flexibility that our employees have shown during this challenging time and we will continue to work closely with all our employees to address any issues they may have.

"The pay talks are currently ongoing with Unite, the union, and hence it is not appropriate to provide an update at this time.”

The concerns emerged just weeks after rival firm Go North East was accused of "wasting thousands" in favour of a "suitable pay rise" after a two percent offer was rejected.

At the time, drivers claimed money was being spent unnecessarily on the rebranding of buses as it was suggested the current pay did not reflect the responsibility of the role.

Read more: Go North East respond after bus drivers claim staff are ‘walking out’ due to pay

Go North East responded and said the bus industry had suffered from a "dramatic fall" in revenue due to the pandemic, saying they recognise the "hard work" of colleagues.

It also said that rebranding was needed to "attract" more customers as it said it had tried to offer something "sensible" to its drivers given the circumstances.


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