Warning of 'huge disruption' for travellers as bus drivers vote on strike action
Bus passengers in Greater Manchester could face severe disruption to their journeys if drivers employed by Stagecoach vote for strike action in a dispute over pay.
Trade union Unite says Stagecoach, which operates as Greater Manchester Bus Company South, has not made a pay offer which meets the aspirations of the drivers and is blaming the Covid-19 pandemic for its actions.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Bosses at Stagecoach should know that Unite is ready for a relentless campaign if our Manchester members vote for strike action.
“Unite members all over the UK are voting for industrial action right now over Stagecoach’s ‘penny pinching’ on pay. Stagecoach's board should be in no doubt that Unite is now wholly dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members.”
The ballot covers more than 1,000 bus drivers, who are members of Unite, based at depots on Hyde Road, Sharston, Stockport and Ashton.
The company operates routes which go as far as Wigan, Oldham and Rochdale, though Stagecoach said routes in Wigan will not be affected by this ballot.
The ballot for strike action opens on Tuesday, September 28 and closes on Tuesday, October 12. If members vote for industrial action, strikes could begin later this autumn.
Unite claims that Stagecoach is "extremely profitable" and that its latest accounts reveal the group made a profit of £58.4m and it has £875m of available liquidity. Bus drivers in Manchester are currently paid £12.54 an hour.
In addition to a substantial pay increase, the workers are seeking an improvement in sick pay, as the pandemic has demonstrated when workers are ill they must be able to afford to isolate to keep colleagues safe.
Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said: “Strike action will cause huge disruption to passengers across Greater Manchester.
“Bus workers were rightly hailed as heroes during successive lockdowns. However, warm words do not pay the bills and Stagecoach needs to reward its workers' dedication with a decent pay award.
"Stagecoach still has the time to resolve this dispute by returning to the negotiating table and making a decent offer.”
A Stagecoach Manchester spokesperson said: "We believe that our local communities who depend on buses to get to work and access public services, as well as local businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic, won't be able to understand this threat of unnecessary disruption to their bus services. The focus should be on protecting both the jobs of our people and the long-term sustainability of services for the local community.
"We are committed to offering good packages for our people. Contrary to the misleading impression given by the union, we have made a good offer to deliver further improvements in pay and conditions in Manchester that exceeded Unite's aspirations. In addition, the Unite pay committee went to their members with a strong recommendation to accept this offer.
"The reality is that Covid-19 has resulted in bus passenger numbers being only 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Passenger fares are significantly short of what is needed just to even cover the day-to-day costs of running services. As a result, services being run by all bus operators require support from the government. Any changes to pay and conditions have to reflect the local economic conditions, the varying costs of running services and the level of passenger journeys if the bus network is to remain sustainable.
"We very much remain open to continuing discussions with the union and would urge them to return to talks."
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