Union accuses transport bosses of waging 'propaganda war' over Sheffield tram workers' strike

A tram in Sheffield.
A tram in Sheffield.

A union has accused transport bosses of waging a 'propaganda war' over strike action that is set to affect thousands of revellers at this weekend's Tramlines Festival in Sheffield.

Drivers and conductors who work for Stagecoach Supertram are set to take part in 72-hour strike action planned between today and Sunday, July 22, in a dispute over pay.

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This coincides with the 10th annual Tramlines Festival at the 40, 000-capacity Hillsborough Park, which some music fans claimed will 'cause chaos' for those wanting to get to and from the site.

Earlier this month, Tim Bilby, managing director of Supertram, accused Unite - the union which has organised the strike action - of "deliberately targeted young people and the Tramlines Festival."

But the union has now hit back and accused the company of waging a 'propaganda war' against them.

Steve Clark, Unite's regional coordinating officer, said: “The management is waging a nasty propaganda war against Unite members taking legitimate industrial action over a shoddy pay offer that amounts to a 26 pence an hour rise.

“The company could have sorted this well before the annual Tramlines festival. Instead, we understand it is marshalling buses from outside Sheffield with drivers who don’t know the routes in a bid to break this strike.

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“The company usually makes a lot of extra money when Tramlines is held because of increased journeys to the Hillsborough Park venue. But on this occasion, it has put aside money making opportunities for a bit of old fashioned union bashing."

He added: "If our members accepted the firm’s derisory offer they would eventually, in the years ahead, be working for the national minimum wage.

“We will fight against this race to the bottom and continue to campaign for a proper wage rise for the hardworking drivers and conductors who are out in all weathers keeping the people of Sheffield on the move.

“I am sure that those attending the Tramlines festival will understand that this is a fight against a miserly pay offer – and may even offer gestures of solidarity to our members.”

However, Mr Bilby hit back today and said: "We spoke with Unite the union at their earliest opportunity on Tuesday.

"We had lengthy discussions with their lead officer and proposed a revised deal of 30p per hour for year one and rate of inflation (minimum two per cent) for year two, plus a reduction in working hours as requested.

"Unfortunately this revised proposal was not even put to our employees for consideration.

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"Once again, we are more than willing to sit down with the Unions to discuss a pay deal, but it needs to be realistic. We are at the very limit of what is affordable."

The union previously pointed out that train drivers earn a minimum of £35, 000 a year compared to £20,000 for Supertram drivers, and train conductors are on at least £20, 000 compared with less than £15, 000 for Supertram conductors.

Stagecoach Supertram said there will be a limited tram service running at the weekend between 7am and 7pm. There will also be extra buses laid on.