Nexus has said its offer to the workers covering the Tyne and Wear service has been turned down by drivers who are in the RMT and ASLEF unions.
However, Aslef has said its 50-strong members working for the Metro are calling for the same level of pay they could get for another operator and are considering withdrawing overtime working as a result of the issues.
Nexus has said it is “astonished” by the unions’ decision and has as both have rejected the offer and members have balloted in favour of industrial action, which could also mean a strike on the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Nexus has previously acknowledged it has an issue with retaining staff and has launched a recruitment campaign to add more drivers to its workforce.
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A spokesperson for Aslef, which is to hold talks with the RMT about their next move, said: “We are disappointed that the company, which had indicated it would do its best to match drivers’ salaries offered elsewhere on the rail network, and consequently stop the drain of drivers from Tyne and Wear Metro, has decided, at the last moment, to come up short.
“The company needs to get its act together, deliver on promises it made in private, and make sure it trains and retains the right number of drivers it needs to run the service it has promised passengers it will deliver.
“The company is haemorrhaging staff and only the company can put that right.”
Nexus says it has made it clear to the drivers’ unions that a higher pay award coupled with improved terms and conditions in rotas are “unaffordable and unrealistic”.
Metro services director, Chris Carson, said: “We are about to start the process of transforming the Metro system with a new train fleet and as part of this we have made an unprecedented pay offer to our Metro drivers of a 15% increase in salary over two years, on top of the annual cost of living rise.
“In return for this we are asking for some changes to working practices that will reduce the likelihood of trains being cancelled due to driver shortages, and help us with the once-in-a-lifetime task of introducing a new train fleet
“We’re astonished that this offer has been rejected and that the trades unions not only want more pay, but also to work reduced shift lengths which can only be achieved by us employing significantly more drivers. The trade unions have not made any suggestions as to where the money should come from to pay for this.
“Metro is a publicly owned service run for the benefit of the local community.
“Not only does it not make any profit, but it can only operate thanks to significant subsidy paid by taxpayers.
“Metro is about to benefit from the biggest investment since it opened, with new trains coming that will improve the drivers’ working environment every bit as much as they will transform the experience for passengers.
“I urge the unions to get around the table with us to finalise the details of this pay deal so that we can get on with our job of transforming the Metro for the people who rely on it.
“If despite this offer the unions do choose to take industrial action we will do everything we possibly can to keep our passengers informed about any disruption that results.”