Hundreds of Stagecoach bus drivers in Preston and Chorley to strike for FIVE more days
Hundreds of bus drivers are set to the continue their strike action across Lancashire with five further walk outs on the horizon.
Some 300 bus drivers from Stagecoach’s Chorley and Preston depots will down tools for a further five days in June and July.
The drivers went on strike for four days in May after pay talks broke down, with two further walk outs set for Friday (May 31) and Saturday (June 1).
Now, after returning to the negotiation table on May 20, further pay talks have also broken down leading to drivers once again withdrawing their labour.
Drivers are now set to walk out on June 11, June 18, June 29, July 13, and July 16.
John Boughton, regional industrial organiser at Unite the Union, said: “We met with the company on the 20th and the company did not make any improved offer whatsoever so the action is carrying on.
“We were obviously disappointed. We thought they would put something to us, we were prepared to compromise and put an offer to them, which they rejected. So the dispute carries on.”
Drivers were initially seeking a 50p pay rise from £10.50 to £11 – an increase of 4.8 per cent.
Mr Boughton explained: “They are the poor relation within the group. Colleagues in Liverpool, Chester, and on the Wirral are on higher rates of pay.
“Even with this pay rise they will still be the lowest paid.
“We were prepared to look at [pay increments] over a longer period. It was down from our original position but the company did not want it.
“In 2018 the national Stagecoach group’s pretax profit was £95 million; an increase of 432 per cent from £18 million.
“We are not after a king’s ransom; we’re just after a fair pay rise.”
Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire Managing Director, Rob Jones, said the union’s latest pay rise offer “is not realistic”.
Mr Jones said: “Regrettably, we have not been able to move forward in our discussions with the union despite what we consider to be a good offer still on the table.
“I ask union bosses to consider the ordinary local people they are affecting with their unachievable demands and bring an end to this situation.
“Planned strike action for Friday 31st May and Saturday 1st June will go ahead, however we are working around the clock to ensure minimum disruption is caused to service users.
"Extra staff has been drafted in to support with all routes operating on a reduced timetable.
"We have a comprehensive contingency plan in place in the event of future strike action and will do everything we can to minimise the impact on our customers.
"We will continue to keep passengers updated on any developments via our website and live Twitter feed."
A number of buses serving Preston, Chorley, Longridge, Chipping, Keswick, and Blackburn have been affected in the first six strike days, which end this Saturday.
So far on strike days, drivers have been holding demonstrations outside the bus depots in Chorley and Preston to showcase their fight for their wage demands.
“If you’ve been up to the demonstrations you can see how well supported it is with the public,” Mr Boughton said.
“People aren’t happy to be out on strike but spirits are quite high because they believe they have a just cause to fight for.
“All they want is a fair increase in their salary to be similar to those in other parts of Stagecoach.”
For the first six strike days Stagecoach has brought in extra drivers to try and keep its services running as smoothly as possible.
But Mr Boughton says it doesn't make economical sense to keep this up.
He said: “It would be cheaper for them in my opinion to resolve this than bring people in to break the strike.
“They’re not prepared to sit down and listen to a fair demand.
“If you give people a decent pay rise the money then also stays in the local economy rather than going back to central in Perth where the company is based.”
It is unclear what services will be affected in the new strikes.