Bus services in several parts of the UK have been threatened with significant disruption amid planned strike action by drivers.
Two trade unions - the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Unite - have threatened to take industrial action over pay and conditions for members working for bus firm Stagecoach, which operate routes around the UK.
However, the unions and Stagecoach have been locked in discussions to try to avert the action, meaning the situation is changing rapidly.
Are Stagecoach bus drivers on strike?
The RMT announced that planned strike action for Monday 18 October had been called off.
Its members in England’s South West were due to walk out for 24 hours but the action has now been put on hold while they consider a new offer from Stagecoach South West management.
Mike Watson, managing director of Stagecoach South West, said: “We have had constructive discussions with RMT today and as a result the strike action planned for Monday has been called off.
“We are pleased to have put together positive pay packages for our people that are supported by the union.”
The RMT has now suspended all planned strike action across the country while members consider new pay offers.
Last week Unite members in Lancashire and Chesterfield also agreed to abandon strike action planned for Monday 18 after an improved pay offer from bosses.
Action planned for services in Fife and Tayside looks likely to be dropped after Unite recommended its members in the east of Scotland accept an improved pay offer made late last week.
Are any strikes going ahead?
Despite progress in many areas, Unite said it was still planning strike action in some locations.
Members at Stagecoach North East voted by more than 90 per to take industrial action and a spokesman for Unite said strike dates would be announced in due course.
Action is also set to go ahead in Wales after talks between the union and Stagecoach Wales broke down after the operator rejected the union’s demand for a minimum pay rate of £10.50 an hour.
Why are staff striking?
Both unions held ballots on industrial action earlier in October over pay for bus drivers.
They argued that Stagecoach was shortchanging staff with low pay while making millions of pounds in profit.
Across both unions the vast majority of members backed calls for strikes, leading to the planned action on October 18 and other dates later in the month.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Low pay is the scourge of the bus industry. Stagecoach made profits touching £60m last year and has £875m in the bank. Yet it claims it cannot make a decent inflation-busting offer to its staff.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said drivers were “being kicked in the teeth” over pay despite a nationwide shortage of bus drivers.
Stagecoach said that drivers deserved a pay rise but claimed that the union’s demands across various regions were “unrealistic and unaffordable”.
It has since reached agreements in several regions, with offers ranging from 4.4% for RMT members in the South West to 7.5% for Unite staff in Scotland.
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