Some bus strikes averted, but Unite to formulate ‘battle plan’

Some Stagecoach bus strikes averted

Several planned bus strikes by members of the RMT and Unite unions that are employed by Stagecoach subsidiaries have been called off or suspended after the group made headway in settling pay deals. However, stoppages are set to go ahead in other areas, while Unite is now balloting around 50 drivers at Kinchbus for strike action.

The mixed developments come against a backdrop of Unite having announced that is to bring together its bus industry representatives from across the country to develop “a comprehensive battle plan” in a signal that the union’s approach to securing improvements to pay and conditions for its members in the sector may harden still further.

Strikes by 250 Unite members that are bus drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside, Cheshire and South Lancashire’s Chorley and Preston depots have been called off after a one-year deal was accepted that will see wages increase by 4.4%.

Also settled is a dispute at the same subsidiary’s depot at Gillmoss in Liverpool, where a ballot for strike action had taken place. Drivers’ rates will increase by 2.25% over a 12-month period that ends in April 2022, and hours worked on Saturdays will come under scope of the weekend enhancement. Cleaners and engineers at Gillmoss have also agreed pay deals.

Suspended is strike action among drivers at four Stagecoach Manchester depots after a revised offer was put forward. Planned stoppages by RMT and Unite members at the Chesterfield depot of Stagecoach Yorkshire have also been suspended on the same basis, as they have at Stagecoach East Midlands’ Mansfield and Worksop garages after “very positive” discussions with RMT.

However, a pay offer by Stagecoach East Scotland has been rejected by Unite members in a variety of disciplines in Fife, Perth and Strathtay. The union continues to call for a 4.8% rise there. Those employees “overwhelmingly” backed strike action at the same time as rejecting the offer, Unite says.

Strike action by RMT members at Stagecoach South West depots in Devon is set to go ahead on Monday 18 October after members there rejected a pay offer. Strikes at three Stagecoach South Wales depots from Tuesday 19 October also look likely to proceed after talks with ACAS failed.

Unite says that it “is determined to eradicate poor low pay for bus workers once and for all.” However, Stagecoach has countered by arguing that networks “are facing a continuing challenging financial environment, with passenger numbers significantly down on pre-COVID-19 levels. Fares are insufficient to cover the day-to-day costs of running services without government support.”

In the East Midlands, Unite is balloting around 50 drivers at Wellglade subsidiary Kinchbus for strike action over what it describes as “an unsatisfactory pay offer.” The ballot closes on 22 October, with the potential for strikes to start in early November if agreement cannot be reached.

Unite also continues to oppose any plans in London for remote sign-on among bus drivers and it is threatening to ballot its 20,000 bus driver members in the capital “to prevent its imposition.”