Stagecoach in Wales reacts to Unite union demands

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Stagecoach in Wales has criticised the Unite union for fuelling what it says are ‘fantasy pay demands’ and threatening to disrupt bus services in Wales which it said provide a ‘lifeline’ for communities and businesses.

Despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Stagecoach said it has already agreed above-inflation pay increases of around 5-6% covering both drivers and engineers at its bus depot in Merthyr Tydfil, as well as deals for drivers in Caerphilly, and engineers at its bases in both Cwmbran and Blackwood. But the operator says that the Unite union has so far refused to reach agreement on bus drivers at the Blackwood, Brynmawr, and Cwmbran depots – despite being offered deals of up to 10.5%, some of which is linked to productivity improvements.

Nigel Winter, Managing Director of Stagecoach in Wales, said: “Bus services in Wales are facing a continuing challenging financial environment with passenger levels significantly down on pre-Covid levels. Bus passenger fares are significantly short of what is needed just to even cover the day-to-day costs of running services without Government support. Despite this, we have worked tirelessly to protect the jobs of our people. We have also done all we reasonably can to hold constructive discussions with Unite and reach a sensible and sustainable pay agreement across our bus depots in Wales. The fact that we have proposed and reached agreement at several depots is a sign of our good faith. However, Unite has shown no interest in reaching similar agreements covering bus drivers at our Blackwood, Brynmawr, and Cwmbran depots and instead insists on fuelling fantasy pay demands as part of a wider political agenda. Our employees absolutely deserve a pay rise for all their hard work throughout the pandemic, but the union needs a reality-check on what is affordable. We have offered our drivers above-inflation pay increases which are up to three times the 3% received by nurses in Wales. Hard-working local people will find it astonishing that the union has rejected that offer.”

He added: “Any talk of industrial action by the union is irresponsible and counterproductive when the focus should be on protecting the jobs of our people and the long-term sustainability of bus services for the local community. We are committed to offering good packages for our people. We very much remain open to continuing discussions with the union and would urge them to return to talks.”

Stagecoach is facing multiple threats of industrial action at a number of its operating companies throughout the UK from RMT and Unite in the coming weeks.

Stagecoach in Wales has already agreed above-inflation pay rises at certain depots. RICHARD SHARMAN