Disruption to buses if Stagecoach staff vote for strike action in pay dispute

Stagecoach drivers are going to vote on possible strike action.

Bus passengers in the South West face substantial disruption to their journeys from next month if drivers employed by Stagecoach vote for strike action in a dispute over pay.

The dispute involves hundreds of bus drivers based at depots in Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Coalway, and Ross-on-Wye.

Unite union says drivers are taking action to combat low rates of pay, with many of them paid under £11 an hour for a highly-skilled, responsible and demanding role.

But Stagecoach has criticised the union for threatening industrial action impacting Stagecoach bus services after it rejected a pay increase for employees of up to 10%. 

Strike action could happen before the end of February, affecting Stagecoach services in the South West.

The company says it has offered various one and two-year pay deals of between around 5% and 10% covering employees at its five depots in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Coalway and Bristol.   In recent discussions between Stagecoach West and Unite, Stagecoach says the union has refused to demonstrate any flexibility around pay offers and instead has confirmed plans to press ahead with a ballot of its members for industrial action. 

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director of Stagecoach West, said: “We really value our employees, who are doing a fantastic job under some challenging circumstances, and we agree that they deserve a good pay increase.   “Our people have previously benefitted from above inflation pay increases and we are continuing with that legacy.

"This year has been a greater challenge, but despite this, we have still put forward strong pay offers of between 5-10% to recognise the valuable role our people play in our communities, and that helps protect the long-term sustainability of the bus network.   

Stagecoach has offered its staff a pay increase of between 5 and 10%.

“The very last thing that our customers and communities need is the threat of industrial action. We have recruited a large team of additional bus drivers to improve the reliability of our services.

"Any unnecessary disruption would set back the recovery of bus services and be a real kick in the teeth for local communities.  "We should be working together on a way forward that protects both jobs and services. Whilst we appreciate Unite remaining open for talks, it’s very challenging that they are unwilling to show any flexibility.  “We would urge Unite to put customers first instead of creating more uncertainty for people who rely on their bus services to get to work, access public and other services, and stay in touch with their friends and families."

But Unite says the dispute can still be solved.

The union's regional officer Shevaun Hunt said: “If strike action goes ahead it will inevitably cause disruption to bus passengers across the region.

"However this dispute is entirely of Stagecoach’s own making - it can afford to make a fair pay offer but it has chosen not to.

 “Unite is fully committed to further talks to resolve this dispute. It simply requires Stagecoach to return to the negotiating table with a pay offer which meets members’ expectations.”Stagecoach warned action would damage the livelihoods of local people and businesses, as well as setting back the recovery of bus services.

In recent months, Stagecoach has employed a team of around 140 new drivers to improve the reliability of services which have been affected by the pandemic.   

The ballot opens on Tuesday 25 January and closes on Thursday 10 February. If the drivers vote in favour of industrial action strikes could begin before the end of February.

The industrial dispute in the South West follows similar disputes that Unite bus workers have undertaken with different Stagecoach operations throughout the UK over pay. As a result of these industrial disputes, workers have secured pay rises.