Bus drivers in Lynn are being balloted for potential strike action in a dispute over a pay offer, which union leaders say was unanimously rejected.
Officials from the RMT union say they are ready to re-open talks with Stagecoach in Norfolk, formerly Norfolk Green, in a bid to resolve the row.
But the company insists that the offer is fair and addreses many of the concerns raised by the workers’ representatives.
Last month, the union warned that its members at the Lynn depot could take industrial action over the company’s pay offer, which they described as “derisory”.
Yesterday, officials confirmed that a ballot for both a strike and action short of a walkout, such as an overtime ban, has now been opened.
The result of the vote is expected to be announced next week. No provisional strike dates have yet been set.
Steve Smart, London and Anglia regional organiser for the RMT, said company bosses had been informed that the ballot is taking place.
He added: “We’re available for talks at any time, but nothing has come back.”
Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach in East Anglia, said he had been “surprised” by the union’s response, but insisted he was also prepared to have further discussions.
He said: “We still think it’s a good offer. It’s in excess of inflation.”
He added that the offer also dealt with issues concerning fortnightly payment of wages and the incorporation of the attendance allowance into the basic pay rate, which had been raised by the union.
Drivers are currently paid £8.50 an hour with a 75p an hour attendance allowance.
The company has offered a 40p increase in the hourly rate, with 25p of that being drawn from the existing attendance allowance.
But the RMT wants the full 75p allowance to be incorporated into drivers’ basic pay terms.
Mr Smart said the company’s offer had been unanimously rejected by workers when it was put to them.
He added: “They were completely gobsmacked with the offer.”
The union has previously argued that Lynn-based drivers should be paid in line with their counterparts in Cambridge, who receive £3 an hour more.
However, managers said they can afford to pay higher rates in Cambridge as more people use bus services there.
Mr Campbell said a weekly bus ticket in Cambridge costs £14, compared to only £9.50 in Lynn.
He added: “I don’t think the travelling public of King’s Lynn would be too pleased if I put fares up by that much.”