Unite responds to Stagecoach take-over bid

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Unite the Union has set out its thoughts on the take-over bid for Stagecoach by DWS Infrastructure

Employee representatives from Unite the Union have analysed the take-over offer from DWS Infrastructure via its Inframobility UK Bidco subsidiary, and offered their opinion on the bid.

“Recent months have been a time of significant uncertainty for employees at Stagecoach with first the recommended offer from National Express and now with the offer from DWS,” the union said. “While the representatives from Unite the Union welcome the stated support of Stagecoach for its relationships with trade unions, we want to ensure that the voice of employees is heard as the company enters a new era. Investment in bus transportation has great potential to transform communities for the better, reduce carbon emissions, connect people with workplaces and leisure in greater numbers; but none of this is possible without support for employees.”

Taking into consideration the impact of the offer on employment conditions and looking at the available information, the union noted a number of concerns.

Firstly it noted that there is an expectation, but not a commitment, to retain the overall headcount in frontline operational roles, but that no working definition on frontline operational roles has been put forward. The union said it would ‘urgently seek further engagement on headcount plans’ if the offer is accepted.

It was also noted that a ‘small number of roles within the business development function’ and ‘certain central support functions in the UK that currently support Stagecoach’s status as a publicly listed company’ may no longer be needed. Stagecoach said appropriate engagement and consultation with affected employees and employee representative bodies will be undertaken, but Unite believes further detail is required on the proposal, and a commitment to the earliest possible engagement with employee representatives essential.

Unite also pointed out that the offer is centred on the UK bus market, does not thoroughly address all aspects of Stagecoach operations, and neglects to include detailed plans or proposals on the Supertram service in Sheffield. It also asks for further information about the potential disposal of certain services to ComfortDelGro and the impact of this on the staff and business.

On the subject of recruitment, Unite welcomed the statement by DWS that it expects to continue efforts to recruit into frontline roles, but said it is vital that more information is presented as to how this will happen and that the increasing challenge of recruitment can only be met by addressing pay and terms and conditions.

National Express offer

As CBW went to press, National Express confirmed its proposal for the all-share combination with Stagecoach at an exchange ratio of 0.36 as final. National Express says it considers the terms of its proposal to be full and fair, and that they will not be increased save that it reserves the right to improve the terms with the recommendation of the Stagecoach Board. The Board of National Express is continuing to encourage Stagecoach shareholders to take no action in relation to the DWS offer, and believes its own proposal would provide Stagecoach shareholders with ‘the opportunity to participate fully in the exciting future of the industry’ and that the combined group would offer ‘compelling growth and value creation potential’ superior to the DWS offer.

Unite has laid out its concerns and called for more information about how the proposed DWS offer will affect members. RICHARD WALTER