Go North West bus drivers start strike in jobs dispute

image captionGo North West operates routes across Greater Manchester and Cheshire

Hundreds of bus drivers have gone on strike in a row over working practices.

It follows proposed changes by the Manchester-based Go North West at their city centre depot in Queens Road.

A firm spokesman said they aimed "to secure the future of 600 jobs by stemming the company's annual losses of £1.8 million".

The Unite union, which represents more than 400 drivers at the firm, said the company planned to "fire and rehire its workers on vastly inferior contracts".

Go North West operates 130 buses on 30 routes across Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

'Outdated' terms

It said that, under the proposed measures, drivers would get a £5,000 productivity lump-sum payment, plus two years' of inflation-linked pay rises and guarantees of no redundancies.

The firm added that 80% of drivers voluntarily signed up to the package and that many of the working practices inherited at the depot when Go North West took over in 2019 had been in use since the 1980s.

A firm spokesman said drivers were "still paid to rewind manual destination blinds on vehicles" despite buses now having digital displays and were allowed to cut short journeys if they were late finishing a shift.

Managing director Nigel Featham added: "Changes to working practices proposed by Go North West will bring the company in line with terms standard across the industry and which Unite has already agreed at other bus companies."

Unite said that 82% of its members at the depot voted in favour of striking.

Drivers' shields

Union representative Lawrence Chapple-Gill said: "There were some things that we were working on with the company prior to Christmas, which amounted to over £1 million that we offered up as a contribution towards the turnaround plan."

He said the firm had "walked away" from talks and called on it "to return to that process so we can maximise our joint understanding of each other's position and hopefully come up with a negotiated agreement".

Unite has also written to Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, asking him to intervene as it was "increasingly alarmed" that buses set to be used during the strike do not have the shields that protect drivers from potential Covid exposure.

The BBC has asked the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for a response.

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