Go North West negotiations collapse – Manchester bus strikes to continue

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Go North West bus strikers on the picket line in Manchester

GO NORTH West negotiations have collapsed without agreement as Manchester bus strikes are set to continue.

Protracted peace talks between management at Go North West and Unite, the union, collapsed without agreement on Thursday, meaning that the long running bus strike is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

The dispute is a result of the company deciding to fire and rehire its bus drivers and attempt to force them to accept vastly inferior contracts.

Over 400 drivers who are members of Unite have been on all-out strike since Sunday 28 February. Today (4 April) will mark the end of the fifth week of strike action.

Under fire and rehire plans by Go North West (part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead group), bus drivers who earn an average of £24,000 will be forced to work longer for no additional pay. Unite has calculated that Go North West is expecting its drivers to undertake 130 hours of unpaid work per annum, resulting in drivers being £2,500 a year worse off.

Go North West is intent on tearing up the existing sick pay policy, which will result in a 67 per cent cut in sick pay for workers with over five years’ service.

During the 12 days of negotiations, which took place under the auspices of the mediation service ACAS, Unite put forward proposals to achieve savings of £1.3 million per annum, but Go North West’s management deemed this insufficient.

During the negotiations, Go North West again threatened to close the Queens Road Depot if the union did not accept its cuts. This would result in the immediate closure of its 30 bus routes which serve Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Trafford and Warrington.

Incredibly, Go North West has claimed that workers have volunteered to accept the new inferior contracts when in reality workers were given just eight days to accept the new contracts or be sacked on 8 May.

Unite North West regional secretary Ritchie James said: ‘Unite has tried to resolve this dispute through negotiations and put forward over £1.3 million of savings proposals, but Go North West deemed this insufficient.

‘As a result of the failure of the talks Unite will be stepping up its campaign to ensure that Go North West drops its plans to fire and rehire its loyal workers.

‘Bus drivers who have kept working throughout the pandemic, risking their health and that of their families, deserve better than this.

‘Manchester’s passengers deserve better than this, Go North West is forcing them to use its dangerous rogue bus service, where the risk of Covid transmission is greatly increased and where numerous other regulations are breached or ignored.

‘It is essential that everyone in Greater Manchester speaks with one voice, from passengers, to local politicians and condemns this sickening use of fire and rehire that Go North West is utilising to make workers poorer and boost its profits.

‘Unite has repeatedly attempted to resolve this dispute through negotiation and it is prepared to continue to do so, but Go North West will now have to bring fresh proposals to the table.’

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Fire and rehire is ripping through our workplaces like a disease.

‘Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.

‘It’s a disgraceful practice that’s outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.

‘Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency. We won’t stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack.’