Bus strikes in the North East are set to continue after further talks with Go North East broke down on Monday. The lack of a fair pay offer from the employer has resulted in employees taking an indefinite period of strike action to demand fair wages.
The bus workers’ ballot results reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the offered pay deal, signalling that the employer has severely underestimated the employees’ anger and discontent.
Bus drivers overwhelmingly agreed to reject their employer’s pay offer by 85%, with an impressive 94.1% turnout of bus drivers. These numbers unequivocally express the workers’ collective voice – they want and deserve more than what bosses have offered.
One of the most significant concerns voiced by the striking bus drivers is the wage disparity within the same organisation. Go North West drivers, part of the same parent company, earn £15.53 per hour. Meanwhile, Go North East drivers are stuck at £12.83 per hour, this is a loss of £105 per week and £5,575 per year on a 39-hour week. This means that workers in Sunderland would require a pay rise of over 20% to earn the same as those in Manchester.
In response to this injustice, 1,450 bus workers at Go North East have initiated continuous strike action from Saturday, October 28, 2023. The determination of these workers to stand up for their rights is undeniable, and they deserve the utmost respect and support.
Ben Maxfield, Go North East Business Director, recently said his message to workers was, “What are you actually going out on strike for?”. This is extremely insulting to his employees given the obvious regional pay inequality that these bus workers are subject to.
The striking workers at Go North East, the Engineers, Drivers, Admin, Clerical, and Tech workers, have my utmost support in their industrial action as they aim to achieve a decent pay rise that they deserve.
Unite officials suggested multiple ways of ending the strikes with a variety of financial packages for workers but each was met with refusal by Go North East management. Unite have calculated that the dispute could be resolved for approximately £238,000, which is less than the Salary for two Go North East directors, but the employer has refused to budge. The highest paid director at Go North East was paid £185,000 in 2022. This is six times the pay of the average employee.
As well as this, the Go Ahead Group Chief Executive Christian Scheyer received a unbelievable bonus of £540,000 for the year ending July 2022, bringing his salary to £976,000.
The difference between what the employer has previously offered and what Unite has asked for means that Go North East can end the strike with just 0.28 per cent of the annual profits of the Go-Ahead bus group. Their last accounts show their bus division made profits of £85million.
The consequences of this strike have undoubtedly affected local economies and the well-being of countless individuals who depend on public transportation. It is a reminder that fair wages are not just a matter of principle; they are a crucial factor in maintaining vital infrastructure and the prosperity of our communities. I stand in solidarity with the striking bus drivers and urge Go North East to back around the table with Unite and accept their proposed resolution deal.