Row breaks out at Manchester depot
A row has erupted over the suspension of a member of staff at Go-Ahead’s Queens Road depot in Manchester.
Workers at the Go North West site are due to hold a consultative ballot on industrial action following the senior Unite trade union rep’s suspension. Unite said that the suspension was sanctioned by Go North West MD, Nigel Featham. The union has called for the senior rep’s immediate reinstatement.
The union has also expressed grievances over proposed changes to working hours and pay of 500 drivers at the depot. Unite says that within three years its members would be worse off under the new arrangements. It believes the operator has attempted to railroad changes to the terms and conditions of the bus drivers via the offer of a one-off payment of £5,000.
Go-Ahead has said the rep’s suspension does not relate to the ongoing disagreement over pay and working arrangements.
“We will not allow our elected workplace representatives to be bullied and have their livelihood threatened, nor will we allow forced changes on the workforce” – Unite regional officer, Steve Davies
Unite regional officer, Steve Davies, commented on a meeting he had with Nigel Featham: “It was pointed out to him that the allegation against the Unite senior rep was totally without merit and his suspension was an attempt to undermine Unite from representing the legitimate interests of its members.
“The suspension of our senior shop steward is a ham-fisted attempt at weakening and undermining the confidence of drivers by trashing industrial relations with Unite.
“We believe that Nigel Featham’s reckless ‘bull in a china shop’ actions are now the biggest threat to the business and its profitability.
“We will not allow our elected workplace representatives to be bullied and have their livelihood threatened, nor will we allow forced changes on the workforce.
“We have tried, as a matter of courtesy, to contact the Go-Ahead Group nationally to ensure that its top executives fully understood the extent of the industrial vandalism being enacted by the local managing director in Manchester which should not be allowed to continue.
“There are formal complaints against managers already registered with the company of a serious nature; however, no suspensions have taken place and the process of investigating these complaints appears to have been blocked.
“The costs of Go-Ahead drivers are neither excessive nor cause problems for the business. It is expenditure from other areas of the business which have been loaded onto its bus driver operations that are the problem.”
Unite said that the working practices at the Queens Road depot which the company wants to buy-out have since been replaced by additional cleaning and cash collection duties which it says mean the bus drivers are working just as hard.
The consultative ballot will be held by the end of the month.
“Whilst many of our staff are supportive of the proposals, Unite has been vehement in its opposition to them, while not offering any alternative to resolving our ongoing losses” – Go-Ahead spokesperson
A spokesperson from Go-Ahead said: “We have been trying to engage with Unite on agreeing changes to working arrangements at Queens Road depot since March 2020.
“These changes are long overdue, are necessary to enable the company to regain profitability, and would bring the depot into line with commonly accepted working practices elsewhere in the bus sector. Our proposals guarantee all driving jobs at Queens Road and, with no reduction in take home pay or changes to weekly hours.
“Furthermore, we proposed sharing the benefits improved efficiencies would gain by giving each driver £5000, this autumn, if Unite agreed the proposals.
“Whilst many of our staff are supportive of the proposals, Unite has been vehement in its opposition to them, while not offering any alternative to resolving our ongoing losses.
“The issue regarding suspension of a colleague at Go North West is unrelated to the above proposals. We have suspended an employee pending investigation, in response to a serious complaint from one of our drivers.
“We cannot comment on this matter pending the outcome of the process; all we can say is that we take very seriously our duty of care to our staff, and that we would not lightly suspend any member of staff, especially in the current situation when we are trying to agree significant changes to working arrangements.”