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Devon set for bus strike

Union members may walk out in October

Bus drivers and other union staff at Stagecoach could walk out for a day in October over calls for more pay.

Industrial action has been called for in a number of Stagecoach regions, including the south west, by members of the RMT union. Nearly 700 people may walk out in Devon on Monday 18 October, unless a solution can be found.

The company says the union has rejected a pay rise of nine per cent, linked to productivity improvements.

But the RMT says those productivity improvements are unacceptable and include an enforced reduction of weekly working hours of two hours, which will be unpaid.

Stagecoach South West says it has also recently put a no-strings offer at the union's request which would give employees a 2.2 per cent pay increase from 1 Oct and one-off payment of £300.

Stagecoach West Managing Director Mike Watson said: "Local people who depend on buses to get to work and access public services, as well as local businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic, will be extremely angry at the threat of completely unnecessary disruption to their bus services.

"This planned action is irresponsible and counterproductive when the focus should be on protecting the jobs of our people and the long-term sustainability of services for the local community.

"We are committed to offering good packages for our people - and the offers we have made are line with other bus operators and reflect inflation over the period. It is disturbing that the many offers we have put to the union have not been put to a vote by their members.

"Covid-19 has resulted in bus passenger numbers being only 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Passenger fares are significantly short of what is needed just to even cover the day-to-day costs of running services. As a result, services being run by all bus operators require support from the government.

"Any changes to pay and conditions must reflect the local economic conditions, the varying costs of running services and the level of passenger journeys if the bus network is to remain sustainable."

Mr Watson added: "We very much remain open to continuing discussions with the union and would urge them to return to talks."

Stagecoach is currently recruiting new drivers, in a move unrelated to the ongoing pay dispute with the union. 

Last week, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “These massive votes for action by three more groups of Stagecoach workers in two key areas of the South West and Derbyshire reflect the growing anger amongst bus workers at being kicked in the teeth on pay while inflation and wages elsewhere are rising steeply.

“It’s well established now that we are facing a national shortage of bus drivers as staff leave over poor pay and conditions. It is ridiculous that Stagecoach have chosen this moment to kick their staff in the teeth over pay. The consequences for local services will be horrific.

“RMT is fighting for professional wages for professional bus workers and our members are leading that charge right across the country now‎.

“The company should stop their attacks on pay and start talking seriously about a just and fair settlement.”

An RMT spokesperson told Radio Exe: "We have a mass meeting of our reps [on Tuesday] which will discuss the national campaign to secure pay justice for Stagecoach workers. The superb ballot result and programme of industrial action in Devon will form part of those ‎discussions but no one should be under any illusions.

"We intend te secure a decent pay rise for Stagecoach staff in Devon and the rest of the UK which stops the exodus of staff which threatens lifeline bus services for local communities."

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