Unite, the UK’s leading union, which represents tens of thousands of bus drivers, is warning that residents in the Sheerness area face losing bus services following the announcement that Arriva intends to close its depot in the town next month.

Sheerness bus depot

The company claims the closure is due to high staff sickness rates which are causing lost mileage and overall loses.

Unite is calling on Arriva to reverse the decision and is considering taking industrial action over the decision.

Poor management

The union believes that the problems at the depot have been caused by lazy local management, when the Sheerness depot was under the control of the Maidstone depot. Drivers proposed changes to routes to improve profitability but were ignored by management.

Improvements only began to be made when control of the depot was transferred back to the Gillingham depot.

Jobs at risk

If the plan to close the depot goes ahead, 34 Arriva staff are at risk of losing their jobs. While workers are being offered employment at other depots these jobs will be untenable for most drivers for a variety of reasons including the distance to travel and the additional costs incurred, the lack of a car, and shift timings.

The closure of the Sheerness depot will also have an impact on passengers as the frequency of services or the routes covered may be reduced, especially if services are transferred to other operators.

Pollution increase

Unite has also calculated that there will be a huge environmental cost as it will cost Arriva £45,000 a year in additional fuel costs to send empty buses to the Sheerness area.

Closing Sheerness will also affect the operation of the Maidstone and Gillingham depots and a consultative ballot for industrial action is being held at all three depots.

Bad news for residents 

Unite regional office Dave Weeks said: “Arriva’s decision to close Sheerness is short-sighted and is bad news for local residents, bus drivers and the environment.

“Unite is calling on Arriva to reverse this decision and to work with the union to improve the profitability of the Sheerness depot.

 “If the company is not prepared to reverse this misguided decision then industrial action could be taken as a last resort, which will inevitably cause further disruption to services.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.