BUS drivers are being balloted for strike action over changes to Wilts & Dorset working conditions.

Transport union RMT is to begin balloting 500 members on Wednesday for strike action  over changes to shifts, sign on and off times, and meal breaks.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: “RMT will not sit back while the profitable Wilts & Dorset buses outfit, which is also benefitting from a whole range of tax-payer funded subsidies, launches an all out attack on terms and conditions while bullying staff with a threat to pull the service if they don’t bend at the knee.

“The last accounts for the company show that pre-tax profits increased by 44 per cent to £9.44million – money earned off the back of the workforce – but even that isn’t enough for this crowd as they look to turn the screw with an assault on working conditions.

“The union remains available for talks to resolve this dispute which is all about bleeding staff dry and threatening to walk away from services that have already been subsidised up to the eyeballs with taxpayer’s cash.”

Andrew Wickham, managing director of Wilts & Dorset, said the changes will have no impact on the safety of Wilts & Dorset’s bus operation in Salisbury and that drivers are guaranteed to be paid for a 42-hour week.

“We believe that our Salisbury drivers will be still higher than other bus and coach operators in the Wiltshire area, even after a slight overtime reduction,” he said. “With government and local authority cuts there are increasingly fewer routes that rely on subsidies.

"While Salisbury is a challenging depot to run profitably we value the hard work and professionalism of our drivers.

“We are working hard to preserve jobs in a difficult economic climate in which we are selling our bus stations in the Salisbury and Amesbury. “We have stated that we will not be making staff redundant. These and other changes are aimed at improving viability and the sustainability of bus services in the region. We will continue to negotiate with the RMT in hope that a common sense solution can be found.”