DEC 23: UPDATE FROM STAGECOACH: Planned strike action which was due to take place between Wednesday 28 December and Tuesday 3 January, affecting Stagecoach bus services, has been called off and bus services 1, 2, 38, 41, 42, 471, 472 will operate as normal.
Strike action is currently still planned from Wednesday 4 January. However we expect to run the majority of services as normal during any strike action. Further details about planned service levels will be released nearer the time.
BUS passengers across Merseyside face severe disruption when 120 bus drivers, based at Stagecoach's Rock Ferry garage, go on strike for a fortnight on Wednesday 28 December in a long-running dispute over pay.
Wirral commuters already face travel misery with the six-week January closure of the Merseyrail loop line, halting cross river train services.
Drivers' union Unite says bus services on the Wirral and in Chester and Liverpool will be hit, especially the river tunnel from Birkenhead to Liverpool, when the drivers walk out at 00:01 on December 28. The strike is due to end at midnight on Tuesday 10 January.
A spokesman for Unite said: "The drivers have not had a pay rise since 2015 and after eight months of negotiations by the country’s largest union, Unite, the highly profitable company has failed to increase its offer of 1.5 per cent for 2016 and two per cent for 2017. The drivers have voted by 81 per cent for strike action."
Unite Regional Officer Ritchie James said: “Unite has been involved in extensive negotiations with Stagecoach to secure an increase that reflects the contribution our members have made to the financial profitability of the company.
“After eight months of negotiation, the bosses have said that any offer can only be improved if it were self-financed by the drivers, which is totally unacceptable as inflation begins to rise.
“The company was prepared to offer inferior terms to ‘new starters’ to enhance the pay by five pence per hour for current drivers – this would have seen a reduction of £620 for the first year of employment of every new driver coming to work at Rock Ferry.
“This is completely unacceptable to our members who have seen the company put the same offer to the workforce on three occasions and for the offer to be rejected on each occasion.
“The offer for 2016 of 1.5 per cent is in the bottom ten per cent of pay settlements that have been negotiated with Stagecoach across the UK by Unite. The two per cent offer for 2017 is well below the inflation forecasts for next year.
“The Rock Ferry garage only recently became a ‘Gold Standard’ recognised garage within the Stagecoach group due to the success and operation of the services by Unite drivers.
“Our members are taking action as a last resort as this very profitable company is not prepared to fairly reward the Merseyside drivers who have contributed to that success.
“The fortnight of strike action will cause severe disruption to bus passengers on Merseyside which we regret. However, Unite’s door is open 24/7 for constructive talks with the management to reach a settlement.”
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach said: "We are disappointed that the union has chosen this course of action, at a time when bus services will be key to keeping families and friends connected over the festive period, as well as bringing a much needed boost to the local economy by transporting consumers to local shops.
"For that reason, we are working very hard on our contingency planning and we expect to run virtually all of our planned timetable during most of the strike action, with only some minor alterations.
"Services which may experience delays during this time include:
· Liverpool to Chester via Wirral services - 1 and 2
· Wirral to Liverpool services - 471 and 472
· Local Wirral services - 38, 41 and 42
"Strike action is not the way to resolve this matter. It will hit our employees' pockets at a time of year when household budgets are already stretched and cause unnecessary inconvenience to customers. We have put forward an offer of 2.5 percent in two stages this year, and a further 2.5 percent next year which is above the current rate of inflation and which we believe is a fair and very reasonable offer. We would urge the union to call off this action and work constructively to resolve the situation."