Borough braced for more strikes

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WIGAN faces public transport disruption with four separate days of bus strikes.

Drivers at the area’s predominant operator are walking out because bosses are threatening to scrap existing “hard-won” working terms and conditions.

Stagecoach operates more than 90 bus services - including school contracts ferrying hundreds of pupils - per day.

Company chiefs insist they have contingency plans in place to beat the industrial action, although it conceded that a “small number of routes” would see a reduced service. This will include drafting in managers with public service licences to drive the routes in place of picketing drivers.

But Unite union officer John Boughton said that although staff regretted potential disruption for passengers, drivers were determined to maintain existing rostering, allocation and scheduling Stagecoach took on when it brought the Wigan First Group operation recently.

Walkouts by approaching 200 staff will take place this Saturday and Tuesday September 30 plus Wednesday October 8 and Tuesday October 14.

Christopher Bowles, managing director of Stagecoach Wigan, said that it remained “very disappointed” that staff at the Wigan depot had decided to take further strike action as well as asking members to refuse to work overtime.

He said: “Strike action makes no sense for employees, customers or the local community. There is no justification for the union targeting bus passengers in Wigan or for encouraging staff and their families to lose money.

“We have met all of our obligations as part of our acquisition of the operation in Wigan and since taking over the business, we have made a multi-million-pound investment in bus services, slashed fares for customers and started to turn around a business which was previously in decline.

“We have made good progress, however, further work needs to be done to modernise working practices in Wigan and bring these into line with those of employees elsewhere in the country.”

Mr Boughton said: “The vote for industrial action was an overwhelming one from people who have worked long and hard for the previous owners of the company and always believed that their loyalty would be rewarded by the terms and conditions negotiated on their behalf.

“Now Stagecoach are attempting to snatch them away from them. Perhaps it should have considered its responsibilities to the exisiting staff terms and conditions when it brought the company.”