Stagecoach and trade union Unite met on Friday – with ACAS moderating negotiations – to discuss pay, but neither side has backed down.
Unite are asking for drivers at Blackwood, Brynmawr, and Cwmbran Stagecoach depots to be paid £10.50 an hour to bring their salary in line with local competitors – but Stagecoach are sticking to their offer of £10.10 an hour.
Stagecoach’s offer also comes with the caveat of reduced sick pay and removal of all paid breaks.
Therefore, strike action is likely to go ahead, beginning on Tuesday, October 19.
Other dates of strike action have been passed out on Stagecoach buses but not confirmed:
- Saturday, October 23
- Monday, October 25
- Friday, October 29
- Saturday, October 30
- Monday, November 1
- Saturday, November 6
Unite regional officer, Alan McCarthy said: “We’ve tried to have frank discussions with the employer.
“The emotional arguments -realistic as they are – are not having any impact on stagecoach.
“They keep talking about the fact that they’d love to give £10.50 an hour, but financially don’t feel capable of doing so.
“It’s a real bitter pill for members to swallow because all of the wages are covered by taxpayer funding until July next year.”
Unite has also accused Stagecoach of cancelling all annual leave for the next two months for the depots going on strike.
Drivers at the affected depots have also claimed Stagecoach is reorganising routes and drivers to reduce the amount of available working hours for workers who intend to strike.
The Caerphilly depot will take over Blackwood depots operations on the 50 Bargoed to Caerphilly and 27 Bargoed to Blackwood, and the Merthyr depot will take over all the buses running on the X4 Cardiff to Abergavenny via Merthyr, Tredegar, Ebbw Vale and Brynmawr from October 18.
The Argus put these claims to Stagecoach.
A spokesman replied: “Any changes to our operations are focused on delivering the best service to local communities.
“The changes planned from October 18 are completely unrelated to pay discussions and were briefed to our teams prior to last week.
“The changes planned will not impact passengers in any way.”
Local politicians have declared their intent to support the striking workers, including the leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council Cllr Philippa Marsden, and Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn.
Mr Evans said: “In the pandemic we clapped for our key workers, this included our bus drivers.
“Many hospital staff in my constituency rely on public transport to get to and from work.
“Without our bus drivers and depot staff continuing to work throughout the pandemic, our health care would have been put under even more strain.
“That is why I must support Stagecoach staff in Blackwood and across Wales in their fight for a fair wage.
“£10.50 is not an unrealistic wage, in fact workers for Newport Transport already receive this wage.
“It is unacceptable for Stagecoach staff to have their paid breaks and sick pay removed from them.
“We have seen the impact of shortages of HGV drivers we do not need to see what a shortage of bus drivers would do to our communities.
“I have agreed to meet with Stagecoach to discuss this further, but I am clear that Stagecoach staff have my full support.”
Unless a deal can be agreed at the eleventh hour, it seems that a strike is assured to happen.
Mr McCarthy said: “Our members are in a situation now where it’s not they can’t negotiate, they can’t move.
“The increase in inflation, the increase in fuel prices, the increase in gas prices, let alone what we expect next April – £10.50 is the least that they need.
“It isn’t a want, it’s a need.
“So it’s it’s onwards to industrial action on from 2am on Tuesday.”