BUS drivers in Bolton hit the picket line for the sixth time yesterday in an ongoing pay dispute.

About 2,000 Arriva North West drivers and engineers from depots across the region staged the first of three planned walkouts after negotiations broke down.

Thirty employees picketed outside the Folds Road depot, near Bolton town centre, today.

Union chairman Ted Pesujek said: "The pay we are being offered is well below the cost of inflation.

"We are not being greedy, we have asked for below inflation — we just want near it.

"We are like cheap labour here in Bolton. People say we already get paid a lot but we work weekends, late hours and holidays without shift pay.

"This is the sixth strike in five weeks now, we hope it is working and we are hoping to talk with the company this week and this will come to an end.

"We do not want to strike, we are losing money. Talks have been going since April and it's November now so this is not a decision we take lightly but a last-ditch attempt."

He added that the general public, including passengers, had been mostly been in support of their actions, with passing cars honking their horns at the crowds outside.

Members of the Unite and GMB unions are involved in the strike over what the unions have called 'pitiful' pay.

Arriva North West said it was making an improved pay offer for all depots of up to 2.75 per cent.

However, the strikers said the offer only represented an increase of around 29p and they are seeking an increase of 2.8 per cent upwards.

This will not be the last of the industrial action with further strike dates planned for November 20 and 27.

Workers in Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire also walked out because of the dispute over pay with the company, with no Arriva bus services running in Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire or Cheshire, including the 510 Bolton to Bury and 574 services to Wigan.

The 575 service to Wigan, 541 Bolton to Toppings Estate and 534 Bolton to Oldhams Estate operated on a limited service, while the 484 Whitefield to Eccles service operated as normal,

Arriva North West apologised to anyone inconvenienced by the ongoing strike action.