Shouts of 'scab' as Stagecoach managers drive buses past striking workers

Stagecoach staff were met with shouts of 'scab' from a Liverpool picket line as the company was accused of undermining strike action in the city.

Today is the first day of action for around 500 Liverpool bus drivers who took to the picket line outside the company's Gillmoss depot on the East Lancashire Road.

Unite union members are seeking a wage increase that better reflects the hourly pay rate of other operators in the area, but Stagecoach said it put forward an offer that brought these rates considerably closer whilst retaining more favourable employment terms, conditions and benefits than others offered.

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This morning, as the strike got underway, Stagecoach was accused by the union of 'undermining' the action of its members by using managers based elsewhere in the country to come to Liverpool and drive buses.

Video footage taken from the Gilmoss picket line this morning shows a number of buses leaving the depot and being met with angry shouts of 'scab' and other terms from those taking industrial action. The video also shows that Merseyside Police were involved in temporarily closing the road to allow the buses to leave the depot.

Unite regional officer Brian Troake said: "Around 5am this morning several buses pulled up full of Stagecoach managers from around the country who were here to undermine and break the picket line.

"Stagecoach have thrown money at this, putting them up in hotels - rather than focussing on sitting down with their work force and resolving this."

He added: "When the buses came out this morning, they were given a police escort as the East Lancs Road was shut to allow them out which was disappointing to see."

"Our members are out here exercising their democratic right to withdraw their labour and instead of respecting that, Stagecoach are going the other way."

Mr Toake added that he believes the people of Liverpool 'know the score' and were choosing not to use the buses that were breaking the strike action.

He added: "We saw a number of these buses that went out that were pretty much empty on the roads. We think the word has got out and the good people of Liverpool are boycotting them."

Responding to the union's claims, Matt Davies, managing director of Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire said: "Stagecoach is operating a reduced special service today staffed by volunteer managers and supervisors.

"Our service is focussed in the areas that would otherwise have no bus service and we are also operating a shuttle service to Anfield Stadium in response to Police and Liverpool City Region requests to prioritise that service on public safety grounds. We respect the right to engage in industrial action but we also need to provide the best service for our communities that we can.

"We deeply regret the industrial action is taking place and are open to resolving this dispute and are available to hold talks at any time. We genuinely want to settle the dispute but the overall cost of a pay rise needs to be affordable at the depot. We’ve informed Unite of a number of ways in which we could resolve the dispute, they involve movement by both parties, and we are willing to do to that."

Today was the first of potentially several days of strike action affecting Stagecoach in Liverpool. Drivers will also be walking out tomorrow (Tuesday).

If an agreement is not reached following these two days of action, the union intends to step things up next month, with further proposed walk-outs between July 5 and 8 and between July 12 and 15. The union says this will then be escalated to an all-out continuous strike if no agreement has been reached.

Speaking about the involvement of the Merseyside Police, Superintendent Matthew Moscrop said: “Officers have been on the East Lancs Road today to manage traffic around the Gillmoss Depot.

“Officers are monitoring the location to ensure the safety of the wider road network, and to minimise disruption for road users.”

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