Services on the UK bus network, already in “crisis” due to a shortage of thousands of drivers, will worsen as unions plan a series of strikes.
the RMT is going ahead on Monday with a bus worker outing at Stagecoach Southwest, and Unite is planning a strike for the first week of November at many of Stagecoach’s other franchises.
The action includes staff from Stagecoach’s northeast services, who on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike, as well as the company’s bus services in Scotland, Wales, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire and Kent.
Other bus companies, including Arriva North West, are also facing potential strikes.
The troubled bus network is recovering from an estimated shortage of more than 4,000 drivers. And unions say vacancy rates will rise as drivers are drawn into the trucking industry hit by drivers, where they can double their wages.
Operating companies cite daily driver shortages as the reason for the announcement cancellation of hundreds of services.
The Bus Users charity said it had never had so many complaints from passengers about buses not running.
Dan Norris, Mayor of Metro West of England, said bus services were in crisis. He was in talks with other mayors about how to pressure the government for help.
Unions say drivers’ pay, which in many areas is less than £ 10 an hour, must improve to attract more recruits and prevent existing staff from leaving.
“This is why key personnel are leaving en masse, threatening vital transportation service,” said Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary, announcing Monday’s strike at Stagecoach Southwest.
In Wales, where Stagecoach drivers are only paid £ 9.25 an hour, Unite plans to go on strike after the company rejected a claim for £ 10.50 an hour as “unaffordable”.
Norris said: “The government has written to heavy vehicle drivers, which include many bus drivers, offering lucrative careers in transportation, which has not helped. We need government action to solve the bus driver crisis, not plaster solutions. “
Bobby Morton, Unite’s National Passenger Transportation Officer, said, “I’ve been in the industry for almost 40 years and I’ve never known it so bad.”
the CPTThe Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, a trade body representing bus operators, insisted the industry was working hard to address its estimated shortfall of more than 4,000 drivers. His spokesman, Tom Bartošák-Harlow, insisted the shortage was not about wages.
A Stagecoach spokesperson said it continued to operate 97% of services and had attracted 6,000 applicants for new bus driver roles. “Like other companies in the transportation and logistics sector, a small proportion of our services have been affected by factors beyond our control, including the pandemic, Brexit, and delayed DVLA licensing.”
The spokesperson added: “We continue to have good relations with our unions locally and we are going through the regular process of negotiations in which salary reviews are due. We have union recommended pay agreements and offers covering the majority of our bus stations in England, Scotland and Wales, and we are working constructively to finalize agreements at the other remaining locations. “