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Stagecoach say directors’ payrise set two and a half years ago amid dispute with trade union

23 Oct 2021 5 minutes Read
Picture by Unite Wales / Twitter

Stagecoach have said that a payrise for directors happened two and a half years ago, amid a dispute with a workers’ union about raising wages.

The accounts of Stagecoach South Wales say that the directors’ remuneration rose from £181,000 to £229,000 between 2019 and 2020. The accounts note: “The highest paid director received £180,000 (2019: £154,000).”

However, Stagecoach later sent a statement saying that there had been “no salary increases for the last two years amongst our senior management team”.

Nation.Cymru has asked why the company’s accounts show a £48,000 increase in directors’ remuneration between 2019 and 2020 if none took place.

Stagecoach responded that the salary increase between 2019 and 2020 would have been “set” in May 2019, two and a half years ago.

More than 200 Stagecoach drivers in Cwmbran, Brynmawr and Blackwood this week began a month-long walkout with the aim of winning an hourly wage of £10.50.

But the Union’s approach amounted to “fantasy pay demands” according to the managing director of Stagecoach south Wales, Nigel Winter, who said their trade union, Unite, “needs a reality-check on what is affordable.”

When contacted on Friday to respond to the increase in directors’ pay shown in their accounts, Stagecoach South Wales only responded to Nation.Cymru with a statement only urging Unite to enter talks with them.

After this story was published the parent company, Stagecoach, sent an additional statement saying there had been no salary increases.

When Nation.Cymru sent them their own accounts, they said that the salary increases had been set in May 2019.

Despite the pandemic, Stagecoach South Wales reported a pre-tax profit of £2.1 million, up from 1.5 million in the previous year. That was helped by almost £1 million in public funds through the furlough scheme.

Its ultimate parent company, the Stagecoach Group, also reported a pre-tax profit last month which includes £24.5 million from regional bus operations outside London which includes Wales.

‘Public support’

Stagecoach South Wales has “strong, long-established working relationships with trade unions and work in partnership with them on a range of issues”, according to its latest financial report.

This dispute is putting that relationship to the test. As well as describing £10.50 an hour as “fantasy pay”, Stagecoach said drivers would have to sacrifice sick pay and paid breaks to reach a £10.10 an hour wage.

The first of six phases of industrial action began on Tuesday and, with another pay offer unanimously rejected by workers on Thursday, action could continue until November 13.

“It’s a tough job, every day is a challenge and I think for what we do, we deserve decent pay,” said Stagecoach driver David West in a video posted from a picket line by Unite.

“Everything is going up in price and we’re struggling to live. Is £10.50 really a fantasy wage? I don’t think it is… and the support from the public, they don’t think it is either. Let common sense prevail, for the little that we’re asking, a company like this – you can’t tell me that they can’t afford it.”

Fellow driver and Unite rep Lee Hunt said: “I think the only fantasy about it is the fact that the company think we’re worth less than £10.50. That’s the biggest fantasy in my eyes.”

‘Hard work’

When asked by Nation.Cymru for a response to our findings on its managing director’s pay, Stagecoach South Wales initially provided only the press release it issued in response to its latest pay offer being declined.

It in, Winter said: “It is very disappointing that despite making a further improved offer to Unite which would reduce the pay gap between pay aspiration and offer to within 20p per hour, Unite seemed determined to press ahead with strike action, causing further unnecessary inconvenience to our passengers and communities in south Wales.

“In Unite refusing to hold a workplace vote it is difficult to see how we can take this forward in order to reach and agreement. We recognise the hard work our people have continued to do during the pandemic and whilst we are committed to giving our staff a good pay rise, which is rightly deserved, this must be sustainable for our business to ensure the long-term viability of services, bus depots and jobs.”

After this story was published, the parent company Stagecoach sent another statement. A Stagecoach spokesperson said: “The claims from Unite are inaccurate and do not reflect the true position.

“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.

“At no point have we described a £1 an hour pay rise as ‘fantasy’, the point was made in relation to the union’s general approach to negotiations. We remain committed to constructive talks with Unite around a sustainable pay increase for our employees”.

Stagecoach has also hit back through an open letter which it has paid to place as an advertorial on Wales Online.

Negotiations between Stagecoach and Unite, which are being hosted by the UK Government’s mediation service ACAS, will continue next week.

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