Stagecoach paying SW England trainees £2 an hour more than qualified south Wales staff on strike
Stagecoach are paying trainee bus drivers in the south west of England over £2 an hour more than qualified staff in south Wales currently on strike for a £1 an hour pay rise, the company’s own website reveals.
Around 200 drivers at Stagecoach’s depots in Cwmbran, Brynmawr and Blackwood are now in their third week of a walkout aimed at raising their wages from £9.50 an hour to £10.50 an hour.
The boss of Stagecoach South Wales, Nigel Winter, has accused their union, Unite, of “fuelling fantasy pay demands as part of a wider political agenda” and said “the union needs a reality-check on what is affordable”.
But just 30 miles away in Bristol, the same company is offering £11.75 to trainee bus drivers. That rises to £11.80 in Plymouth and Barnstable.
Stagecoach also pay trainees more than striking Welsh drivers in Hartlepool (£9.91), Carlisle (£11.31), Workington (£10.24), Perth (£10.50) and Rugby (£10.64 – £14.53).
A trainee bus driver in Stroud will typically earn £23,200 in a year, according to Stagecoach’s website. That’s £750 a year more than a fully qualified driver in Cwmbran would earn a year operating the company’s Megabus service to London.
A spokesperson for Stageoach said: “As is the case with many roles and different sectors across the economy, pay rates are market driven and vary according to local circumstances.
“Pay rates in place across our operations are agreed by trade unions, including Unite.”
Nation.Cymru also found:
- Of the 200 driving jobs currently advertised on Stagecoach’s website, its lowest paid permanent offers for qualified drivers are in Wales: Eight of the 12 jobs in Wales advertised at an hourly rate are offering £9.50 or lower.
- There are no permanent qualified roles advertised in England for less than £9.91 an hour following a 3-month probation period. One “seasonal” job in Skegness is advertised at £8.93 per hour. In Scotland, qualified bus drivers are being offered at least £10.16 an hour.
- Stagecoach are already paying drivers more than £10.50 an hour in towns with a low cost of living: drivers in Carlisle are paid £11.80 an hour, while it’s £11.20 in Scunthorpe, £11.14 in Hull and £10.77 in Grimsby. Average rent in Hull is £412 per month, which is less than the average rent for a 1 bedroom property in Torfaen, where the Cwmbran depot is situated, was in 2019 according to Stats Wales.
- Stagecoach is already paying drivers at their Caerphilly depot the £10.50 an hour being requested by their staff in Cwmbran, Brynmawr and Blackwood.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said “we will not accept workers in south Wales receiving inferior pay to their colleagues in other parts of the UK” as she escalated the dispute on Tuesday after the third round of negotiations between the union and employer ended in failure.
The strike is due to end on November 12 but Unite has announced it will launch a fresh walkout lasting until January unless Stagecoach offers £10.50 without cuts to sick pay and paid breaks.
The difference in pay with the company’s directors has also made drivers more determined, Unite said. Nation.Cymru reported last week how the latest accounts of Stagecoach South Wales say directors’ remuneration rose from £181,000 to £229,000 between 2019 and 2020 and note: “The highest paid director received £180,000 (2019: £154,000).”
Subsequently, Unite revealed drivers had received an increase of 75p per hour between 2016 and 2020 whilst the directors annual pay rose from £93,000 to £180,000. “In the light of this gross hypocrisy, our members are more resolute than ever and will not back down in this dispute,” said Unite Wales officer Alan McCarthy.
Stagecoach said in a statement: “The fact is that there have been no salary increases for the last two years amongst our senior management team. In addition, several of our senior managers took a cut in their basic pay during the pandemic.
“Our focus continues to be on protecting the jobs of our people and the long term sustainability of bus services for our local communities.”
Stagecoach have also paid for two advertorials in Wales Online and the South Wales Argus which say “the union’s demand for a 10.5% increase in one step is not achievable without damaging bus services”.
In a further sign of the increasingly bitter nature of the dispute, boss of Stagecoach South Wales, Nigel Winter, blocked a number of Unite representatives on Twitter after Tuesday’s talks.