Bus drivers are set to continue strike action, with dates over the festive period, after refusing a pay deal offer.

Stagecoach Sunderland bus drivers have voted to reject an "improved" offer as the union claims the rise being offered is still lower than other depots elsewhere.

Industrial action was last week paused to allow talks to resume as the GMB Union threatened further strikes would take place if the deal is not accepted.

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The firm had offered a rate of £13.10 per hour immediately, an overtime rate of £14.10 an hour and promised to pay an additional 5 percent increase next year.

But last night, an overwhelming majority of union members voted to reject the offer, which the union said is also not enough to tackle the cost of living crisis.

The Northern Echo:

Stuart Gilhespy, GMB Organiser, said: "It was an offer which Stagecoach knew in advance didn’t meet the mandate set by our members, yet they failed to listen to its own employees' needs and instead choose to focus on their own profits.

"Sunderland Stagecoach drivers are in desperate need of a pay rise with the cost of living crisis.

"They’ve shown bravery in declining the offer in order to hold out for what they believe they’re worth."

The rejected vote now means GMB Union will work on further strike dates, which The Northern Echo understands are set to resume over Christmas.

The union previously said a four percent rise being offered constitutes a "real-terms" pay cut amid soaring bills and inflation.

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Mr Gilhespy said: "They've seen workers in Stagecoach depots across the country receive double-digit pay rises - they want and deserve the same.

The Northern Echo:

"The people of Sunderland deserve more than these multi National companies are paying them and need to stand with their local bus drivers as more than ever they need their help."

In response, Stagecoach said their offer would make its drivers the "highest paid" in Sunderland, claiming other bus operators pay hourly rates of between £12.65 and £12.83.

Steve Walker, Managing Director of Stagecoach North East, said: “We are disappointed that GMB members have rejected our latest improved pay offer.  

“Strike action isn’t in anybody’s interests – it is hurting our communities and badly hitting the pockets of our drivers, and we know that many of our employees want an end to these strikes, particularly with Christmas fast approaching. 

“A growing number of employees want to see this dispute settled and we will leave no stone unturned in seeking a resolution that will bring an end to the ongoing strikes."

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