Arriva bus drivers will go on strike, affecting dozens of services across the county next week.
The strike is the first of four days of walkouts planned after 600 members of the Unite union in Kent voted in favor of industrial action over a pay dispute.
The first action will see the drivers leave on Monday and further strikes are planned during the month, the union confirmed.
Other strike days are scheduled for Friday September 16, Tuesday September 20 and Friday September 30. Other strikes could follow in October if the dispute is not resolved.
Unite polled its members at depots in Gillingham, Maidstone, Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells last month, and they voted by a 96.5% margin to take industrial action.
At the time, Arriva was offering a 7.8% pay rise.
In an emergency meeting between the two sides held last Thursday, Arriva raised its offer to almost 10%, but the union refused, pointing to inflation currently at 12.3%, as measured by l retail price index for July, which is expected to increase further.
Unite described the offer as “a real pay cut”.
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Arriva and Deutsche Bahn, their parent company, are incredibly wealthy. They can fully afford to offer our members a decent pay raise, but they have chosen not to.
“Unite members have rightly rejected a real world pay cut disguised as a pay increase and they will receive the union’s full support throughout this dispute.”
Arriva says a reduced service timetable is expected to be introduced during the strike, but further details or figures on the exact number of bus routes and services affected have yet to be confirmed.
Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn which is one of the largest transport companies in the world and is effectively owned by the German government.
Over the past 10 years, Arriva’s UK bus division has paid out £560 million in profits to Deutsche Bahn.
Unite regional manager Janet Nobbs said: “The bus strikes will inevitably cause serious disruption in Kent, but this dispute is entirely Arriva’s own initiative. Arriva had every opportunity to resolve this dispute.”
“We are extremely disappointed that industrial action is taking place”
An Arriva spokesperson said: “Despite further negotiations with our Union partner, we are extremely disappointed to have all of our customers confirm that industrial action will take place in Northfleet, Gillingham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells on Monday.
“Arriva remains committed to resolving the dispute and we encourage Unite to vote again with its members on our latest pay offer.
“We will continue to keep customers informed.”
The planned action by Arriva bus drivers in Essex has been called off after workers accepted the improved offer.
The strike does not affect other bus companies.