National Express has been warned by the Unite union that it faces a battle to implement any cost cuts if its takeover bid for rival Stagecoach is successful.
The bus and rail groups announced plans for an all-share deal yesterday with National Express estimating a merger would save GBP35mln a year through restructuring and sharing facilities.
Unite today warned that it is already involved in 20 separate disputes with Stagecoach across the country over pay and other related issues.
These disputes may result in industrial action across Stagecoach’s entire network during the autumn and winter, the Union said.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite members all over the UK are voting for industrial action right now over Stagecoach’s ‘penny pinching’ on pay.
Stagecoach’s board should be in no doubt that Unite is now wholly dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.
“The National Express board should be similarly advised that should their takeover bid for Stagecoach be successful, Unite will oppose the asset stripping and wage cuts that usually accompany such City manoeuvres.”
Most of Stagecoach’s local operating companies failed to give the workers a pay rise in 2020, said Unite, even though the latest accounts revealed a profit of GBP58.4mn and GBP875mln of available liquidity.
“Unless Stagecoach’s board sends a clear message to its local operators that they are to give their staff a decent pay rise, there will very likely be separate strikes all over its bus network come October, whether there is a change of owners or not,” added Unite’s national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton.
Analysts at broker Liberum, meanwhile, said that to get a deal across the line might require some disposals being required to secure CMA clearance, ‘but these should not be an insurmountable obstacle’.
“We see the attractions for National Express, especially at this price level. Conversely, we are somewhat underwhelmed by the premium offered to Stagecoach shareholders. “