In a dispute over pay, Unite bus driver members at Stagecoach in Barnsley and Rotherham have been ignoring freezing cold weather to turn out in force to picket their depots and local bus stations.
As Stagecoach is highly profitable, enjoying a 27.5% rise in profits last year to £207.5 million, there were high hopes, when wage negotiations began in April 2011, of achieving pay parity with bus colleagues in nearby Chesterfield, who receive £9.22 an hour. When 48 pence an hour less was offered, the first day of strike action took place on November 18th and as of today there have been twelve dispute days in total.
These have forced management to increase their offer to just over £9 an hour, whilst also however refusing requests for back pay, thus angering those on strike. Meantime; unable to get enough people to cross the picket line to run a service, Stagecoach have been spending money on hotel accommodation for managers - who are also getting additional rates to pay – that they have brought in from other parts of the company and country.
There are around 440 on strike, split evenly across the two South Yorkshire sites. This morning on the picket line at the Barnsley Stagecoach depot on Wakefield Road there were 71 people and it was clear from speaking to a fair number that they see this as an essential focus for their ongoing struggle. Pickets are held from 5.30am to 8.00am, at which point a picket and protest is mounted next to the bus station in Barnsley town centre.
With the strike made official then each striker gets £30 a day from Unite, but it’s still a big sacrifice to be on strike in a period when the essentials of life are rising fast. Not that Stagecoach boss Sir Brian Souter need worry, as last year, not long after bringing to an end the final salary pension scheme for his workers, he received £58.7 million in shareholder dividends.
|On a bitterly cold morning pickets held a protest next to Barnsley bus station. |
Earlier 71 strikers held a picket outside the Stagecoach depot on Wakefield Road in the
South Yorkshire town.