Stagecoach drivers across Devon intend to go ahead with strike action on Monday following unsuccessful negotiations with the company for improved pay and working conditions.
Transport union RMT has been fighting a national campaign for “pay justice” but says there is no alternative to industrial action as “an exodus” of bus workers is threatening vital services.
Workforce shortages have already led to disruption across Devon, with service reductions and some temporary suspensions on less popular routes.
RMT General Secretary Mike Lynch said: “It’s well established now that we are facing a national shortage of bus drivers as staff leave over poor pay and conditions”.
He also said that the “RMT is fighting for professional wages for professional bus workers” who are underpaid, undervalued and often vulnerable.
During the pandemic bus drivers continued to provide key services while working in close proximity to the public, putting their health at risk.
Industry commentators have said that Brexit and the pandemic are the main drivers of staff shortages, both causing issues with recruitment and retention.
Mike Watson, Managing Director at Stagecoach South West, said his firm is “committed to ensuring our people who keep our communities connected are properly rewarded, particularly after their contribution to the country over the past 18 months of the pandemic”.
Earlier this week Stagecoach proposed a new pay package that it said would “deliver a near £1,000 increase in pay as well as other related improvements” and urged the RMT to support the offer.
Today the union said strike action would still go ahead and claimed that Stagecoach has linked the pay offer with cuts to existing staff benefits.
Related industrial action will also take place in the East Midlands, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. In Devon, services will be affected across the county.
Those wishing to travel are advised to check the Stagecoach website for journey information.
UPDATE: Stagecoach announced on 17 October that South West strike action has been called off. The RMT confirmed that industrial action has been suspended in order to allow members to vote on the latest offer from the company.