Bus drivers balloted on strike action over pay in Cornwall

Bus drivers in Cornwall are being balloted on strike action by their union, it's announced today (Monday, June 24). Workers say they are angry that employer Go Ahead is reported to be paying drivers elsewhere in the country nearly £3 an hour more.

Around 250 Go Cornwall Bus drivers are being balloted by Unite. The workers are demanding that their wages be brought more in line with their colleagues in other parts of the country.

According to Unite, Go Ahead drivers in Oxford are currently paid £2.84 more per hour than the Cornwall drivers, while drivers in Brighton are paid £1.83 more. Even under Go Ahead’s current 2024 offer for the Cornwall drivers, Oxford drivers would still be earning £2.24 an hour more, while drivers in Brighton would be paid £1.23 an hour more.

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To narrow the pay difference, the Cornwall drivers are demanding their wages be increased by 6.6% to £16 per hour for 2024, instead of the £15.60 Go Ahead is currently offering.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Go Cornwall Bus drivers will not be treated as second-class employees by Go Ahead any longer. This is a highly profitable company and can well afford to put forward a better offer. Go Ahead’s Cornwall’s drivers have their union’s total support.”

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In March, Go Ahead reported revenues of £3.2 billion and profits of £89 million. The industrial action ballot will close on July 1, and strikes, which could begin later next month, would severely impact bus services across Cornwall.

Unite regional officer Dave Smith said: “Go Ahead is set on causing chaos to the travelling public because it wants to employ Cornwall drivers on the cheap. There is still time to avoid industrial action, but that requires Go Ahead to put forward an acceptable offer that considers the large pay disparity between Cornwall and its operations elsewhere.”

Around 350 Go Ahead Plymouth Bus drivers are also being balloted for strike action as part of the same dispute.

Richard Stevens, managing director for Go Cornwall Bus and Plymouth Citybus said: “We are all disheartened that we have not reached agreement for this year’s review of pay. The company has put forward two above inflation pay offers to colleagues. Both have been rejected by Unite members who have voted against acceptance in two workplace ballots.

"The offer put forward by the company is 4 per cent, double the current CPI rate.

"Had bus drivers in Go Cornwall Bus and Plymouth Citybus accepted the most recent offer, they would have earned £15.60 per hour, or £32,448 per annum based on a minimum 40 hours per week guarantee in year one. It also guaranteed a £16 per hour or CPI + 1 per cent, whichever was higher from April 2025.

"Figures published in May 2024 by the ONS* shows the average annual salary in Plymouth, the closest for comparison data available to Cornwall, is currently £26,820, with the South West indicated to be £28,748.

“We always aim to pay the most the company can afford not the least, to its team members, the offers we have made ensure that peoples earning stay ahead of inflation. Our bus drivers’ hourly rate we believe continues to be the highest in the Southwest and is the most the company can afford to pay without impact to services.

"Last year the drivers received an increase in pay of 11.8 per cent, sadly Unite the Union refuse to recognise the reality of the operational and financial situation the company is in, with this demand for an 18.9 per cent pay increase.

"We have always been and continue to engage in meaningful negotiations, sadly we now must await the strike ballot result, expected soon after 1st July to see if Unite the Union are prepared to engage in a discussion that avoids the pain and disruption of a strike being inflicted on our customers and team members.”


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