Stagecoach deny GMB claims of blocking parents and children of striking workers from travelling with family passes as Sunderland five-day strike continues

The war of words between a trade union and bus company has continued after the GMB accused Stagecoach North East of blocking the families of striking Sunderland workers from using free family passes to travel during ongoing industrial action.

Union members are picketing the firm’s depot in North Bridge Street, Monkwearmouth, with almost 200 drivers involved in the dispute.

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Workers are angry after being offered what the GMB describes as ‘a massive real terms pay cut’ of four per cent, with two per cent to follow later in the year.

Stagecoach bus drivers picket line strike over pay outside Stagecoach Sunderland Depot.

On Wednesday, October 12, the GMB accused Stagecoach of blocking the families of striking workers from using their travel passes during the industrial action in a "vindictive” move.

Sunderland’s bus drivers are given a family pass, so that their partners and children can travel for free as a perk of the job.

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Union bosses say passes have been pulled during the walkout, leaving children unable to get to school and college and family members unable to get to work or the shops.

Stagecoach bus drivers are striking for five days.

However, Stagecoach North East hit back saying there was no policy preventing families of those involved in strike action from getting free travel as part of the company’s employee privilege pass.

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The industrial action comes after a ballot which saw 97 per cent of GMB members vote for industrial action on an 83 per cent turnout.

GMB Organiser, Stuart Gilhespy said: “This is a petty, vindictive move, plain and simple. These bus drivers are just trying to win themselves a decent wage, to help them make ends meet during the cost of living crisis.

“Instead of negotiating, Stagecoach is targeting parents and children in a bid to undermine the strike."

A Stagecoach North East spokesperson said: "There is no policy preventing the families of those involved in industrial action accessing the free travel benefit as part of our employee privilege pass.

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"However, the union strike action is disrupting people in the local community from getting to work, accessing education and skills training and getting to the high street to support local businesses.

"We again would urge the union to return to talks, which is the only way to resolve the dispute and ensure union members benefit from pay increases we have agreed at other depots in the north east."