A STRIKE by Metro drivers will go ahead as planned on Thursday after talks between union leaders and train bosses broke down.
It was hoped a compromise would be reached during the last-minute negotiations yesterday, but representatives from the RMT and Aslef unions rejected an improved pay deal from Metro operator, DB Regio Tyne and Wear.
Metro owner Nexus said it was disappointed the “generous” offer was not accepted and said the strike action will damage the region’s image.
Unions leaders agreed to take part in talks only if there was a better offer than the already rejected 1.3% pay rise for drivers earning around £32,000 a year before overtime.
But they rejected the 2.1% offer from DBTW as “not good enough”, meaning the first of two days of industrial action will take place on Thursday.
Micky Thompson, RMT representative, said: “It was a very long day of talks that began at 10am and ended at 3pm. During that time there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing until DB offered a 2.1% pay award or £520, whichever is the greatest.
“We took time to consider this, but we ultimately decided it wasn’t good enough and didn’t meet our aspirational figures. Regrettably, the planned industrial action for June 7 will go ahead.
“We tried to resolve the matter and negotiate with the employer without having to resort to industrial action, but the offer didn’t achieve our aspirations.” If accepted, the pay award would have been one of the highest in the North East in departments linked to the public sector.
The strikes planned for Thursday and June 21 coincide with concerts by Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Many fans were expected to use the transit system to get to the shows.
Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, said: “I am very disappointed that the talks between DBTW and the unions have broken down, despite a significantly improved pay offer on the table which can only be considered generous given the current economic climate in the North East. We continue to urge both sides to seek a resolution.
“The strike on Thursday will mean significant disruption for passengers, not least those heading to the Coldplay concert in Sunderland.
“The decision by the trade unions to press ahead with this strike is bad for the local economy and the image of the region on a day when we are welcoming thousands of visitors to the North East.”
Sharon Kelly, director of customer services at DBTW, added: “We are incredibly disappointed that, following five hours of talks and despite making a significantly enhanced offer, which we made to avoid industrial action, the unions have failed to accept this, and are continuing to plan to strike on June 7.”
Metro bosses said anyone attending the Coldplay concert should travel as early as possible.
A fleet of 55 special buses will run after Thursday’s concert to Heworth Interchange and Newcastle City Centre to help people on their journey home. For full details, visit www.nexus.org.uk
Customers who pre-bought advanced saver wristbands for Metro travel to the Coldplay gig can apply to be reimbursed the day after the performance.
The same will apply for the Bruce Springsteen concert on June 2 if the second strike goes ahead then.
People can get the refunds from Nexus Travel Shops and those who bought them online will be refunded automatically.