STRIKE action has been threatened by bus drivers in Greater Manchester and across the north west.

Drivers working for Arriva, including staff covering the 575 bus from Bolton to Wigan through Heaton, Lostock, Horwich and Blackrod, have voted for industrial action.

Walkouts could begin as early as this weekend after a vote by members of the union Unite, amid dismay over pay talks with Arriva North West.

Union officials say a two per cent pay offer, which will be voted on this Wednesday and Thursday, looks set to be rejected.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The last thing our members want to do is cause disruption to the public, but they have been forced into this position by Arriva’s outright refusal to negotiate in good faith.

“They have the full backing of their union, Unite, in their fight for a pay rise that reflects their worth. Arriva still has time to avoid these strikes, which is why I am urging the company to table a much stronger offer.”

The ballot of 1,800 staff, covering depots in Manchester, Runcorn, Bootle, Birkenhead, St Helens, Liverpool, Southport and Winsford, is said to have resulted in an 87 per cent vote in favour of strike action, with a turnout of 76 per cent.

Alison Spencer-Scragg, Unite regional officer, added: “Unite’s reps have bent over backwards during negotiations to find a way forward that would avoid strike action.

"Talks went down to the wire last week, but Arriva’s unsatisfactory last minute offer means strikes are likely to begin this weekend.

“Bus drivers were rightly hailed as heroes during the worst days of the pandemic and our members believe that Arriva should make an offer that reflects this.”