Go North West depot could close in pay dispute
600 jobs would be lost if solution not found to employment-agreement dispute
Go-Ahead’s Go North West depot on Queens Road, Manchester, could close if employees do not accept a pay agreement.
An all-out continuous strike is planned for 28 February by members of Unite, the operator’s trade union, who include over 400 bus drivers from the Queens Road depot.
According to Unite, drivers are walking out as a result of the decision of Go North West to ‘fire and rehire’ its employees on what the union describes as ‘vastly inferior’ contracts.
“Go North West has ongoing losses of £1.8 million a year, a recurring deficit directly caused by outdated working practices” – Go North West
A statement from Go North West said: “Go North West has ongoing losses of £1.8 million a year, a recurring deficit directly caused by outdated working practices. Over the last 11 months we have been attempting to agree a package of operational improvements to keep the depot open, which Unite are opposing.
“The deal tabled by the company ensures there will be no cuts to drivers’ pay or working hours, includes a ‘no redundancies’ undertaking, and guaranteed ‘inflation proof’ pay increases in April 2021 and April 2022. In addition, each of our drivers would receive an upfront payment of £5,000 in anticipation of the future savings improved productivity could deliver. Go North West bus drivers are already among the best paid on the region.
“The alternative to finding a solution would be to close the depot with the loss of 600 jobs” – Go North West
“The alternative to finding a solution would be to close the depot with the loss of 600 jobs.
“After the union’s rejection of a compromise solution, Go North West took the decision to offer to drivers the opportunity to accept the productivity package individually. 393 out of our 474 drivers (83%) volunteered to accept the new terms.
“Unite are continuing to resist the productivity improvements and have announced that some of our drivers will be striking indefinitely from Sunday 28 February. This is disappointing, especially as the Union’s action will be taking place after the vast majority of our drivers have already accepted the new productivity measures.
“Although less people than normal are using our services at present, we are conscious that strike action could hit the passengers who depend on our services most including those working in the NHS and other vital services that are keeping the region going during the pandemic. Therefore, to minimize disruption for passengers we are committed to maintaining the most comprehensive service we can throughout the strike period.”
Fire and rehire?
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
“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.”
- Go North West was incorporated in 2019 when Go-Ahead Group took over the former First Manchester operations at Queens Road depot, close to the centre of the city. A network of bus routes across Greater Manchester, Salford and the North West is run from the depot, with buses linking towns such as Warrington, Rochdale, Middleton and Bury with the city centre.