Bus company Trentbarton has hit out at claims its drivers are receiving 'poverty pay' ahead of a planned strike next week.
Members of the Unite union are set to walk out on Monday after rejecting a 2.5 per cent pay offer.
Further strikes are also being planned for September 17 and 24 and into October and November.
The union said the strikes have been planned in protest at 'poverty pay' and claimed some bus drivers have had to resort to food banks to increase their low wages.
But the company said that this was not the case, and that for the last 11 years, drivers have received pay rises better than the rate of inflation.
Trentbarton Managing director Jeff Counsell said: "I’m shocked Unite has described our competitive wages as ‘poverty pay’. The majority of the Barton Buses team are on an hourly wage of £11.51 per hour with a guarantee of 39 hours per week.
“Our starting hourly wage is £9.34, with rises during the first two or three years of employment. All rates are significantly ahead of the National Living Wage (£7.83) and the ‘Real Living Wage’ (£8.75).
“Our teams also have the opportunity to volunteer for overtime, and those driving late night services earn £14.99 per hour.
“It’s disappointing that we find ourselves facing industrial action by some members of our team, especially given that we have a track record of improving pay above the level of inflation over the past 11 years.
“At a time when our business, like so many others, is facing tough trading conditions and increased costs, we believe our offer to increase pay by 2.5% to be a very good one and one which will be sustainable in the future.
“We’re proud to be a locally owned independent company. Our operating profits are used to invest in our fleet to help sustain a modern, attractive and desirable transport network. It’s one of the reasons that our customer satisfaction scores are amongst the highest in the UK.
“We hope our drivers who are members of Unite will recognise that industrial action will not help anybody – not them or their fellow drivers, not our customers and not the future sustainability of their employer.
“I offer a sincere apology to those who will be affected by the industrial action. I want to let our customers know that we’ll be doing everything we can to minimise disruption, and we’ll be working hard to keep everyone moving.”
The company said that while the union has been considering the pay review, trentbarton has implemented the 2.5% increase which has been paid since June and backdated to March.
Announcing the strike, Unite regional officer Scott Lennon said: “We are calling on the management to get around the table and negotiate in a constructive fashion to achieve a fair pay deal for our members.
“Our 160 drivers working from depots at Nottingham, Mansfield and Heanor in Derbyshire voted by 70 per cent to strike next Monday (10 September) and on other dates in the autumn over pay.
“This dispute could well escalate as fellow workers at Trent Motor Traction Company have also rejected this dismal pay offer.
“I appreciate that this industrial action will cause problems for the travelling public, but our members’ wages are lagging behind as the cost of living soars.
“The drivers have seen reductions in their shifts and potential earning capacity cut drastically. Our members are living hand to mouth and some are even having to use food banks, which is a disgrace for a dedicated workforce in 2018.
“We have been informed of at least five cases of our members who have had to resort to food banks to augment their poverty pay.
“The management have also muddied the waters by adding in their one per cent auto-enrolment pension contribution to make the pay offer look much more attractive than it actually is. Our members would also contribute two per cent of their pay towards auto-enrolment.
“We believe that pay and pensions should be decoupled as they are different issues – one refers to present day pay and the other towards retirement income.”
Trent Barton said some services will be unable to run on strike days, while others will have a limited service.
Routes affected by the industrial action are:
* calverton connection
* the cotgrave
* the keyworth
* rushcliffe villager
* skylink Clifton
* skylink Nottingham
All other services are unaffected and will run a normal timetable.
The company added that they will be providing live updates on the day of industrial action via their website and Twitter from 6.30am.