Union leaders have warned of possible strike action on bus services in West Norfolk, because of a row over bargaining rights, pay and disciplinary procedures.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has revealed its intention to ballot members who work for Norfolk Green in Lynn over the dispute.
But bosses say they are “surprised” by the move and have urged them to await the outcome of an arbitration process.
The RMT is angry at what it claims is the company’s refusal to grant recognition that would enable it to negotiate pay and working conditions on behalf of its members.
Officials say that more than 100 Lynn staff have joined them since last autumn and their members now make up around two-thirds of the workforce, exceeding the legal requirements for the proportion of staff required to seek recognition.
And Brian Whitehead, the RMT’s regional organiser for the south-east, said its members had been left “incensed” by the company’s position not to recognise it, but the Unite union instead. He said they had not received an explanation for their stance.
Letters were sent to managers on Wednesday to inform them the union would be balloting its workers over whether they wished to take industrial action.
But he would not be drawn on whether that action would mean a formal strike or action short of a strike, such as an overtime ban.
He said: “We will be guided by our members.”
However, Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach East, which runs Norfolk Green, said the company had a region-wide recognition arrangement with Unite.
He said he understood the RMT had been in recognition talks for some time and had gone to an arbitration process, the outcome of which was not yet known.
He said he did not dispute the RMT’s membership figures, but added: “If I’m going to unpick that agreement, I need to have discussions with Unite.
“I think it would be wrong for me, having gone to arbitration, not to wait for that before we work out what to do next.”
The union is also unhappy about disciplinary procedures which it claims have seen 42 out of 125 drivers disciplined since last September.
Mr Whitehead said workers had also not received a pay increase so far this year.
But Mr Campbell said an appeal process is in place for staff to contest the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.
He added that workers had received a pay increase last October.