Services on the UK bus network, already in “crisis” due to a shortage of thousands of drivers, are expected to worsen as unions plan a series of strikes.
The RMT is moving forward on Monday with a walkout of bus workers at Stagecoach Southwest, and Unite is planning a strike for the first week of November at many other Stagecoach franchises.
The action includes staff from Stagecoach North East Services, who voted on Thursday to support massive strike action, as well as the company’s bus services to Scotland, Wales, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, and Kent.
Other bus companies, including Arriva North West, are also facing a possible strike.
The ailing bus network suffers from an estimated shortage of over 4,000 drivers. And unions say vacancy rates will rise as drivers are drawn into the trucking industry where they can double their pay.
Daily driver shortages are cited by operating companies as the reason for the announced cancellation of hundreds of services.
The Bus Users charity said it has never had so many complaints from passengers about buses not working.
Dan Norris, mayor of West of England Metro, said bus services were in crisis. He was in discussions with other mayors to lobby the government for help.
The unions say drivers’ wages, which in many areas are below £ 10 an hour, must improve to attract more recruits and prevent the departure of existing staff.
“That’s why key personnel are leaving in droves – threatening vital transport service,” said Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary, as he announced Monday’s strike at Stagecoach Southwest.
In Wales, where Stagecoach drivers are only paid £ 9.25 an hour, Unite plans to strike after the company rejected a demand for £ 10.50 an hour as’ unaffordable “.
Norris said: “The government has written to heavy truck drivers, which includes many bus drivers, offering lucrative careers in transportation, which has not helped. We need government action to solve the bus driver crisis – no sticky plaster solutions. “
Bobby Morton, National Head of Passenger Transportation at Unite, said: “I have been in the industry for almost 40 years and have never known it so badly.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT), a trade body that represents bus operators, has insisted the industry is working hard to address its estimated shortage of over 4,000 drivers. Its spokesperson, Tom Bartošák-Harlow, insisted the shortage was not about wages.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach said it continued to operate 97% of the services and had attracted 6,000 applicants for new roles as a bus driver. “Like other companies in the transport and logistics industry, a small portion of our services have been affected by factors beyond our control, including the pandemic, Brexit and the DVLA backlog in processing licenses. . “
The spokesperson added: “We continue to have good relations with our unions at the local level and we go through the regular process of negotiations where salary revisions are due. We have set up wage deals and union recommended deals covering the majority of our bus depots in England, Scotland and Wales, and we are working constructively to secure deals at the other remaining locations. “