Stagecoach Sunderland bus dispute rumbles on as staff reject latest pay offer and strikes planned for Christmas
A dispute which has seen bus services suspended across Sunderland is set to continue after staff rejected the latest offer from bosses.
More strikes were due to be held this week, but the plans were suspended on Friday after the firm made an improved pay offer.
Staff were balloting until yesterday and Stagecoach last night confirmed that the latest offer had been rejected.
Now a war of words has broken out between the business and union.
Stagecoach North East managing director Steve Walker said the company was disappointed that GMB members had chosen to reject its latest pay offer.
The firm claims the deal would have taken drivers up to £13.10 an hour with immediate effect, with an additional 4% backdated payment, as well as an enhanced overtime rate of £14.10 per hour.
An additional 5% increase would have been paid in June 2023, taking their annual basic salary up to £27,000 a year, rising to around £29,000 in 2023.
Stagecoach said the offer would make its drivers the highest paid in Sunderland and includes other benefits which exceed those offered by many local competitors.
According to the firm, other bus operators on Wearside pay hourly rates of £12.65 and £12.83 and new pay deals have recently been settled for these operators.
“We are disappointed that GMB members have rejected our latest improved pay offer,” said Mr Walker.
“Strike action isn’t in anybody’s interests – it is hurting our communities and badly hitting the pockets of our drivers, and we know that many of our employees want an end to these strikes, particularly with Christmas fast approaching.
“A growing number of employees want to see this dispute settled and and we will leave no stone unturned in seeking a resolution that will bring an end to the ongoing strikes."
The GMB has already announced further dates for industrial action over the Festive period, with walk-outs scheduled for December 23 - 24 and December 26 - 27.
GMB’s Stuart Gilhespy accused Stagecoach of deliberately making an offer it knew staff would reject.
"GMB held a democratic vote in which the majority of bus drivers voted to reject the offer from Stagecoach.” he said.
"It was an offer which Stagecoach knew in advance didn’t meet the mandate set by our members, yet they failed to listen to their own employees’ needs and instead chose to focus on their own profits.
"Sunderland Stagecoach drivers are in desperate need of a pay rise with the cost of living crisis. They’ve shown bravery in declining the offer in order to hold out for what they believe they’re worth.
"They've seen workers in Stagecoach depots across the country receive double digit pay rises - they want and deserve the same.
"These workers are standing up to bullying tactics from Stagecoach and striving to achieving a result that is good for them, their families and the local economy.
"The people of Sunderland deserve more than these multi-national companies are paying them and need to stand with their local bus drivers as more than ever they need their help."