Bus drivers employed by Go North West in Manchester will begin an all-out continuous strike from Sunday 28 February.

Fire and rehire

The drivers are walking out as a result of the decision of Go North West (part of the Go Ahead Group) to fire and rehire its workers on vastly inferior contracts.

The workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, returned an 82 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action earlier this week. Unite delayed immediately calling strike action to give the management of the company a short window of opportunity to withdraw its fire and rehire plans. The company declined to grasp this opportunity.

Unite represents over 400 bus drivers who are based at the company’s Queens Road depot.

Huge disruption

The strikes will inevitably cause a huge amount of disruption to commuters and passengers throughout the Greater Manchester area and beyond. Go North West operates 130 buses on 30 routes in Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Trafford and Warrington.

If Go North West’s fire and rehire proposals are implemented it will result in:

  • A 10 per cent cut in bus drivers
  • Workers, who earn an average of £24,000 per annum, forced to work longer for no additional pay, resulting in them being £2,500 a year worse off
  • Tearing up the existing sick pay policy, which will force workers to work when they are sick or should be self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tried to negotiate 

Unite has been negotiating with the company about savings required at the Queens Road Depot, but last month the company collapsed those talks and instead pushed ahead with its fire and rehire plans.

Unite wrote to Go North West yesterday (Thursday 11 February), urging the company to return to the negotiating table for meaningful talks. In response,  Go North West stated: “If Unite wishes to constructively re-engage with us, we remain, as always, very willing and available to do so."  

Go North West’s parent company Go Ahead is hugely profitable. Its most recent accounts reveal it earned £1 billion from its bus division, with an operating profit of £121 million. The company paid dividends to shareholders, worth £102.80 per share.

Every opportunity given

Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said: “Unite gave Go North West the opportunity to withdraw its fire and rehire plans following the overwhelming vote for strike action, sadly it spurned this opportunity.

 “As a consequence Unite has had no option but to call its members out on strike.

 “This will inevitably cause a great deal of disruption throughout Greater Manchester and beyond, but I hope that passengers appreciate that Unite took this action as a last resort.

 “If Go Ahead were allowed to implement its fire and rehire policies it would result in our members, who have been in the frontline since the pandemic began, having to work longer for far less money.

 “Unite is committed to returning to the negotiating table to reaching a negotiated settlement with Go North West provided the company withdraws its plans to fire and rehire our members.

 “There is still time to avoid strike action, the company has claimed it is prepared to return to the negotiating table, but actions speak louder than words. The ball is now firmly in Go North West’s court.”

Bullying actions 

Tensions in the dispute escalated steeply earlier this week (Monday 8 February) when Go North West managers hand delivered letters to drivers’ homes informing them that they had just eight days to accept the new contracts or be dismissed on the 8 May. Unite described Go North West’s actions as trying to ‘bully and intimidate’ its workers.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.