An ongoing conflict between the firm and drivers escalated this week when workers’ union Unite announced members would begin indefinite strike action beginning on New Year’s Day.
The union is today (December 16) in the midst of its second week of strike action after staff were offered a two per cent pay increase in November, before later being offered a nine per cent increase over six months.
Now, Stagecoach’s managing director Phil Medlicott has expressed his ‘extreme disappointment’ at the move towards indefinite strike action.
“Strike action is unnecessary and benefits no-one,” he said. “It damages the lives of local people who depend on buses to get to work and access public services. It impacts local businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic, especially at this critical time of year.
“We want to work together with the union to reach a solution. But any aspirations need to reflect the fact that passenger numbers on the country's bus networks remain significantly below pre-Covid levels.”
In contrast, Martin Mayer, secretary of Sheffield Trades Union Congress (TUC), called the strike ‘rock solid’ in a statement this week and claimed ‘bus drivers should be on at least £15 per hour’.
A statement posted by Unite Yorkshire confirming the strike on December 15 reads: “Stagecoach Yorkshire management have had plenty of time to resolve the ongoing dispute, but they're dragging their heels.”
Meanwhile, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said last week: “Low pay is the fundamental reason why workers are voting with their feet and leaving the bus sector. Stagecoach can afford to offer workers a fair pay rise but it has chosen not to do so.”
Unite says its members have been cumulatively paid below inflation for over a decade.
Unite voted to reject a new pay deal put forward by Stagecoach on Friday afternoon.
Members walked out in the week leading up to December 3 after reportedly being offered a two per cent pay rise in November, which Unite labelled a ‘poverty pay rise’.
The new deal offered a nine per cent rise within six months, made up of an increase to the hourly pay rate of six per cent, with a further three per cent in the next six months.
Unite said the offer ‘fell well below their expectations’.
However, the drivers have pledged to work over the festive period.
It comes in the same week coach company National Express agreed to take over Stagecoach in an all-shares takeover merger to create a combined firm worth about £1.9bn and with a workforce of 70,000. Shareholders are yet to vote on the deal.
Mr Medlicott further commented: “We remain 100 per cent committed to reaching an agreement.
“We have been flexible throughout our discussions with Unite, and have significantly improved the proposed pay rate with several different above inflation offers.
"In contrast, it is extremely disappointing that the union has refused to move an inch in its position and counter to the spirit of achieving a jointly-brokered solution, has chosen to announce further strike action that will cause major disruption for our customers as we head into the new year.”