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Forced to ‘sofa surf’ as his bus driver wage didn’t cover his rent

A striking bus driver has told how he handed the keys into his flat because he could not afford the rent on his wages from Stagecoach South Wales.

Richard Fitzgerald has spent 14 days on the picket line with his partner Debbie Fitzgerald. The pair of them spoke to Cwmbran Life about why they have been protesting outside the Cwmbran depot since 19 October. Richard said he was homeless and living in a van when he first got his job two and a half years ago.

In March this year he said he could no longer pay rent so left his flat and has been ‘sofa-surfing‘ with friends. In the video interview he talks about living ‘on the breadline’ and how his ‘anxiety sets off’ when his wages arrive over each week as he had to decide what bills to pay first.

Stagecoach South Wales drivers want an increase to their hourly rate from £9.50 an hour to £10.50.

Watch Richard talk about why he is striking

Watch Debbie talk about why she has been on the picket line every day with Richard, her partner

Seven weeks of strike action

Last Tuesday the latest of talks between Unite Cymru and Stagecoach South Wales failed to reach an agreement. Later that day the union announced over seven weeks of continuous strike action would run from 17 November to 10 January.

Stagecoach South Wales

Nigel Winter, managing director of Stagecoach South Wales said: “We know that our employees deserve a good pay rise and today’s improved offer would see us meet their 10.5% increase ​in pay rate expectation within two years, ​and a 12.6% increase in pay in the next 12 months. However ​Unite refuse to even take the offer to a workplace vote. The pay rise that Unite is demanding would mean cuts to bus services and putting jobs at risk, and is simply is not sustainable ​right now.

“We’re sorry that Unite are continuing with strike action that will impact our services and do not seem prepared to put an end to the dispute. We remain open and available for talks with Unite and ACAS at their convenience in order to settle this dispute and stand by our offer that would give staff a large pay rise with up to £1,000 of back pay.”

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Forced to ‘sofa surf’ as his bus driver wage didn’t cover his rent

Richard and Debbie Fitzgerald
Richard Fitzgerald, a Stagecoach South Wales driver, and Debbie, his partner