Stagecoach accuses GMB of 'maximising disruption' as Sunderland bus drivers set to strike on November 5

A bus company boss has accused a union of ‘maximising disruption’ after announcing a Bonfire Night walk-out in Sunderland.

Around 200 GMB members are locked in a dispute with Stagecoach North East at the city’s depot over pay and have already staged one five-day strike. Workers were left angry following an offer that the GMB describes as ‘a massive real terms pay cut’ of four per cent, with two per cent to follow later in the year.

The union announced last week that it was planning another two days of industrial action. Now Stagecoach says it has been informed the union’s members will also be striking on Saturday, November 5, when rail workers’ union the RMT is also taking action. However, the union insisted ‘was not deliberately coordinated with rail strikes’.

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Stagecoach North East managing director Steve Walker said: “We have been notified that GMB Union have added Saturday, November 5, to their dates of industrial action, in addition to the strikes already planned for October 28 and 31. This is a clear attempt by GMB to maximise disruption to families and local communities across Sunderland. We know that many people will be wanting to use public transport to travel to the Sunderland match and to the various Bonfire Night events on November 5.

“GMB's actions, which have been deliberately coordinated with the rail strikes also taking place on that day, will mean that many people will face significant disruption in trying to travel to some major events in the city.

“We would urge GMB to think about the damage they are doing to our communities and the impact on our people and return to talks being realistic about their expectations. We will continue to do everything possible to provide regular bus services across Sunderland on these dates and full timetable details will be made available on our website as soon as possible.”

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Stuart Gilhespy, GMB Organiser, said: "The strike action was not deliberately coordinated with rail strikes. We understand that the strikes will cause some disruption but members wanted to participate in part-day strikes so people in the city were able to get to and from work and school but Stagecoach would not allow it.

"Sunderland's bus drivers are striking with a heavy heart, they are the community of Sunderland and they don't want to strike but Stagecoach are refusing to negotiate. Drivers are struggling through this cost of living crisis - Stagecoach has left them with no choice but to take strike action."

A picket line strike outside Stagecoach North East's Sunderland depot during the first walk out
Stagecoach says it has been informed the GMB will strike on November 5