Surrey bus drivers to ballot for strike action

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Abellio bus drivers in Surrey are being balloted for strike action.

The ballot by the drivers, members of Unite who are based at the Dutch state-owned operator’s depot at Byfleet, Surrey, opened on Tuesday May 5. It closes on May 19.

Unite claimed a two-year offer on pay and conditions agreed by Abellio Surrey in 2014 is being ignored.

Unite Regional Officer Dave Weeks said: “Now, less than a year into the deal, the firm has unilaterally reneged on one of the key elements.

“Last year, it agreed to increase the new starter rate to £11.11 per hour and to reduce the time drivers had to serve before qualifying for full pay from two years to one and nine months.

“However, earlier this year the bosses said that they were imposing a far lower rate of £9.46 per hour, with no further negotiation, and that drivers on it would never qualify for the higher rate of £11.90 per hour.

“Abellio claims it can’t make a profit if Surrey County Council threatens to withdraw its subsidy. Our members are complaining that large profits are taken by the Dutch government before the residue is declared for tax in Britain. Abellio is draining out of the local economy without putting anything back.

“Another element of the dispute is that the drivers are seeking an improvement in meal breaks. Local bus drivers are excluded from most of the provisions of the European working time directive because their work is covered by the domestic driving hours regulations.

“While bus and coach drivers working under European hours rules are entitled to a 45-minute break after four-and-a half hours driving, the entitlement for those driving on local domestic routes is for a minimum of 30 minutes after five-and-a half hours.”