Scotland’s bus routes could be brought to a ‘halt’ in Stagecoach ballot
- Wednesday 22 September 2021
Scotland’s major bus routes could be brought to a ‘halt’ this autumn if 1,500 Stagecoach Group workers vote for industrial action over a pay dispute.
The ballot covers major bus depots including Angus, Ardrossan Ayr, Brodick, Cumbernauld, Dumfries, Dundee, Fife, Inverness, Highlands and Islands, Kilmarnock, and Perth. Stagecoach routes run across the Islands, and into all major cities and towns from Orkney to the Borders.
If the ballot for industrial action is successful then major bus routes, remote local communities and events are expected to be ‘severely disrupted’. The workers involved in the dispute are drivers, engineering staff, administrative workers, and cleaners. Any industrial action, it is anticipated, will also involve disruption to the COP26 climate change conference being held in Glasgow between 31 October – 12 November 2021.
The ballots across the various Stagecoach Group companies opened from 21 September. If members vote for industrial action, then strikes, and action short of strike, could begin by late October and into late January. The Stagecoach Group, which operates in practice through various local bus companies, are offering below inflation pay offers to workers across Scotland. The Stagecoach Group has blamed the pay offers on the Covid pandemic, despite the company being ‘extremely profitable’.
Stagecoach’s latest accounts reveal that the Group made a profit of £58.4m, and it has over £875m of available liquidity. Unite has demanded Stagecoach meet its ‘fair’ pay claim of the Retail Price Index inflation figure (3.8% - July) plus 1% made by Unite.
Unite has drawn attention to Stagecoach directly benefiting from several Scottish Government funding schemes. This includes the annual public subsidy to private bus operators through the Bus Service Operators' Grant (BSOG) (£52m – 2019/20), and the National Concessionary Travel Scheme (NCTS) (£220m in 2019/20) (1).
The Stagecoach Group has also benefited from the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Support Grant - Restart (CSG-R). The grant provides additional funding to support bus operators. The actual spend in 2020-21 is currently forecast at £120 million. On 8 September 2021, this grant was extended with up to £42 million in additional funding available for 4 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. The funding required for the 2021-22 financial year is forecast at £88.2 million (2).
In March, Stagecoach announced further plans for 46 new fully electric buses across Scotland. The Scottish Government is providing £9m of the funding towards the new buses under the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme (“SULEBS”).
Dougie Maguire, Unite regional coordinator, said: “Stagecoach’s stance has been nothing short of shocking, and it has infuriated the workforce who have continued to work diligently throughout the Covid pandemic. The Stagecoach Group is extremely profitable. It also directly benefits from millions of pounds of public funds every year through various Scottish Government schemes, not to mention benefiting from the UK Government’s furlough scheme for the last 18 months.
“If Stagecoach do not come to their senses, then many of the nation’s major bus routes will grind to a halt if our members vote for industrial action. Remote local communities and showcase events such as the COP26 climate change conference will be severely disrupted. This will be solely down to the Group’s point blank refusal to make our members a fair pay offer. The solution is simple: give our members the pay rise they deserve or face widespread industrial disruption.”