Over 80 bus drivers employed by Stagecoach West in Swindon have overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action, joining their colleagues in Gloucestershire in a dispute over low pay.
The drivers recorded a 98 per cent yes vote in favour of industrial action. They are seeking a pay rise to help address the rapidly rising cost of living, but have instead been offered only a one-off £400 cash payment, in effect a pay cut.
The vote by the Swindon drivers means that over 380 bus drivers employed by Stagecoach in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire are on the brink of taking strike action. If strike action occurs it will be the first time ever that these workers have taken industrial action.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “With this overwhelming vote for strike action, Swindon’s bus drivers have made it perfectly clear they are not going to accept low pay and Stagecoach’s penny-pinching any longer.
“Stagecoach can well afford to pay a fair rate of pay but it has chosen not to do so to boost profits.
“Unite is dedicated to supporting and defending the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. The Swindon bus drivers, together with their colleagues in Stagecoach West, will be receiving the union’s total support until the dispute is resolved.”
When the drivers, based at Stagecoach West’s depots in Gloucestershire (Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud and Coalway), voted for industrial action earlier this month, Unite warned Stagecoach that it “was drinking in the last chance saloon” if it wanted to resolve the dispute and avoid strike action.
Stagecoach’s parent company is extremely profitable. Notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, its accounts reveal that the group made a profit of £58.4 million and it has £875 million of available liquidity.
Unite regional officer Shevaun Hunt said: “Bus strikes in Swindon will cause disruption across Wiltshire but this dispute is entirely of Stagecoach’s own making.
“Unite gave Stagecoach a final chance to make a realistic pay offer and avoid strikes and it has refused to grasp the opportunity. Unless there is a last minute change of heart, strikes will be announced soon.”
There is a growing shortage of bus drivers throughout the UK. A recent survey of Unite members revealed that 99 per cent of depots had shortages and that low pay was identified as the primary reason for workers leaving the profession.
By Barckley Sumner