Bus passengers in Gloucestershire and the South West face substantial disruption to their journeys from next month if bus drivers employed by Stagecoach vote for strike action in a dispute over pay.

The dispute involves around 360 bus drivers based at depots in Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Coalway, and Ross-on-Wye.

The drivers are taking action to combat low rates of pay. Many of them are paid under £11 an hour, for what is a highly skilled, responsible and demanding role.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Low pay is the scourge of the bus industry. That’s why Unite has been relentless in its campaign to ensure that our members at Stagecoach receive a fair pay increase.

“Unite is the union which always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. The union will be giving our members at Stagecoach West its full support until this dispute is resolved.”

The ballot opens on Tuesday 25 January and closes on Thursday 10 February. If the drivers vote in favour of industrial action strikes could begin before the end of February.

Stagecoach operates under the title of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Omnibus Ltd in the area. Despite pleading poverty Stagecoach’s parent company remains 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 has moved to a full industrial action ballot following the failure of numerous pay talks with the company to produce a pay offer that members believed was acceptable.

Unite regional officer Shevaun Hunt said: “If strike action goes ahead it will inevitably cause disruption to bus passengers across the region. However this dispute is entirely of Stagecoach’s own making it can afford to make a fair pay offer but it has chosen not to.

“Unite is fully committed to further talks to resolve this dispute. It simply requires Stagecoach to return to the negotiating table with a pay offer which meets members’ expectations.”

Gloucester News Centre – http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk

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