Stagecoach South Wales and union Unite are set for talks with ACAS on Friday 8 October in a bid to avert a strike threat over drivers’ pay. It comes against a backdrop of growing industrial unrest over rates at several of the group’s subsidiaries and as strike action threatens to spread to Arriva’s operations in North Wales and the North West.
Stagecoach South Wales says that drivers at Blackwood, Brynmawr and Cwmbran depots have been offered increases of “up to 10.5%” with a link to productivity improvements. The operator has already agreed pay deals with drivers and engineers at Merthyr Tydfil, drivers at Caerphilly and engineers at Blackwood and Cwmbran.
Managing Director Nigel Winter says that what is on the table constitutes “a good pay rise.” He has urged Unite to approach the ACAS talks “as a way of negotiating a collective agreement on pay and settling this dispute [and] avoiding untold unnecessary disruption for our staff, their families and our local communities.”
If agreement cannot be reached, strike action is set to take place at the depots concerned from Tuesday 19 October. Unite is seeking £10.50 per hour. It has criticised the offer made by the operator as “attacking our members’ sick pay and paid breaks.” Mr Winter says that the proposal includes “sensible” productivity improvements.
Separately, Stagecoach East Scotland employees in Fife, Perth and Strathtay that are Unite members have “overwhelmingly” backed strike action. A new offer has been put to them, and while the union acknowledges it as “a step forward,” Unite says that “there is still some distance to go” to meet its demands. It is calling for a raise of the Retail Price Index for July plus 1% for an overall 4.8%.
Unite says it is also holding ballots among members at other Stagecoach depots in Scotland from Dumfries to the Highlands and Islands. Those ballots capture around 1,500 administrative workers, cleaners, drivers and engineering staff.
Meanwhile, a strike ballot of almost 400 Arriva Cymru drivers in North Wales will open on Monday 11 October. The same process is already underway among 1,800 Arriva North West drivers at 11 depots in Cheshire and Greater Manchester and on Merseyside.
In the same region, 250 drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside, Cheshire and South Lancashire’s Chorley and Preston depots are set to commence two separate periods of strike action on Thursday 14 October. A further 48-hour stoppage is planned to begin the following week.
A ballot for strike action is also ongoing among over 1,000 Unite members that are drivers at Stagecoach Manchester’s Ashton-under-Lyne, Hyde Road, Sharston and Stockport depots. Drivers and engineers working for Stagecoach North East are balloting on industrial action, including the option to strike.
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham has accused the group of “penny pinching on pay.” She adds: “Stagecoach’s board should be in no doubt that Unite is now wholly dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.”
Meanwhile, union RMT has served notice of strike action on 18 October at Stagecoach East Midlands’ Mansfield and Worksop depots, the Chesterfield depot of Stagecoach Yorkshire, and several Stagecoach South West depots in Devon.
RMT has accused the group of “a sustained campaign of abuse and misinformation” over the disputes that “has already led to members of the public confronting bus staff at the sharp end.” A second two-week overtime and rest day working ban at Mansfield and Worksop will commence on Friday 8 October.