Problems arise in filling bus service rosters because drivers were lured away to fill vacancies as truck drivers. More than 4.000 bus drivers have now left the industry. Many have instead opted for the lucrative salaries they provide for truck drivers. The reason is a letter from the Ministry of Transport in September that was sent to one million employees. Paramedics, former army personnel and bus drivers qualified to drive vehicles weighing up to 7,5 tons were asked to fill the shortage of truck drivers.
Unions argue that bus drivers' wages, which in some parts of the country are only EUR 11.80 per hour, need to be drastically improved to prevent them from leaving the sector. Average wages for truck drivers rose between February and August by 12,8 percent as the driver shortage increased, according to analysis from job site Indeed.
Dan Norris, the West England metro mayor, argues that the government's attempt to entice bus drivers to change careers and become truck drivers would exacerbate the chronic driver shortage. Tom Bartošák-Harlow, a spokesperson for the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT), a trade association that represents bus operators, told The Telegraph: "There will be bus drivers leaving to work in the trucking industry and we can't deny that it's case.”
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Unions' demands come after a series of planned bus drivers' strikes involving members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) broke down on Sunday. Members of the RMT employed by Stagecoach in the Southwest were due to leave on Monday. Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, said in announcing the planned action last week that bus drivers were leaving the sector "en masse" because of low wages. However, the planned strikes were suspended after last-ditch talks.
Strikes were also planned in Wales, where Stagecoach bus drivers are paid only EUR 10.95 per hour after the company rejected the demands of EUR 12.40 as "unaffordable". While the RMT's strike action has been avoided for now, Unite is planning a strike for the first week of November across many of Stagecoach's other franchises in Scotland, Wales, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, and Kent. Other companies such as Arriva North West are also facing possible strikes.
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