By Dave Reid
Stagecoach drivers in Cwmbran, Blackwood and Brynmawr are standing firm for a decent pay rise for all workers at the depots.
Today on the 17th day of strike action the managing director came out of his office to discuss with pickets. The strikers made it absolutely clear that they will stand firm.
The strike has been solid with overwhelming public support since October 19th and management has retreated from its original offer of £10.10 an hour to accepting the strikers’ demands for £10.50 for the existing workforce.
However workers are demanding that new starters will also get the new pay rate and that their paid breaks are also retained. If breaks are unpaid then drivers will have to wait at the depot for their next job for up to two hours without pay – in effect a pay cut of £20-£30. Management have agreed to limit the lower rate to two years, but workers realise that that would still create a two-tier workforce.
If the manager was hoping to see cracks in the strikers’ determination then he was sorely disappointed. “We are offering you £10.50, what does it matter to you what new entrants get?” he asked
“Its not just about us as individuals – that’s what you don’t understand”, said one of the drivers, John. “Its all about the collective. The new starters should have the same pay and conditions as us. We will not accept it. Simple as that.”
“I am only here for another two and a half years but I’m fighting for their rights. They are the ones who will be here for ever and a day afterwards and we should not be selling them down the river and we are not going to do it.”
“If the new starters are paid £10.30 an hour, in a few years that will be minimum wage for having the responsibility of passengers’ lives in their hands” another said.
Talks are continuing today but if management do not concede then all out action will commence on Wednesday. “I don’t care if we are out until the new year, we won’t give in on new starters” Darren said.
Editor’s note: Following negotiations later on November 12th Unite released the following statement:
“Following productive discussions with ACAS and Stagecoach Wales today, our members will now be balloted on a new offer that meets many of their expectations. The ballot will open on Monday and a result is expected on Tuesday.”
Socialist Party Wales will carry the result of the ballot and analysis when its result is announced.