Go North East bus strike set to continue as negotiations collapse

The union has pushed for a 13% increase for more than 1,300 of their members. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Disruption to North East transport will continue after the latest round of talks broke down without a resolution.

Go North East workers who are members of the union Unite will remain on an indefinite strike after latest negotiations failed to produce a new pay deal on Monday 6 November.

Go North East says the talks, which were brokered by the reconciliation service ACAS, lasted four hours before negotiators from the union walked away.

Workers had already staged two week-long strikes before beginning a continuous walkout on 28 October, following an overwhelming rejection of a 10.3% pay rise offer.

The union has pushed for a 13% increase for more than 1,300 of their members, but has also complained that bus drivers at Go North West currently earn an hourly wage more than 20% higher than other bus drivers in the region.

Unite union chiefs say that an indefinite strike that has impacted services run by Go North East will continue. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Unite claimed that the public transport operator had “refused to budge" after meeting with Go North East bosses on Monday 6 November.

Go North East says Unite had demanded six-monthly pay increases, with rises backdated to July 2023, and another in July 2024 along with a further pay increase on 1 January 2024 - all of which would have to be higher than the current pay offer for them to accept the deal.

Go North East business director, Ben Maxfield said: "Passengers are facing unacceptable levels of hardship. But instead of a constructive dialogue all we get from the local Unite representatives is a set of moving goal posts, escalating demands, and a succession of U-turns.

“This dispute, this strike, is entirely of Unite’s making. All we want is for the local union representatives to work constructively and collaboratively with us to secure a resolution”.

“New demands for six-monthly pay rises will only add to mounting anger within the workforce, and from the public, over Unite’s handling of negotiations. It is impossible to negotiate with a union hell bent on disruption rather than dialogue.”

The provider had announced earlier that morning it will run more than 80 buses this week, including school buses and a service for hospital workers in Newcastle, but the vast majority of its routes remain suspended. 

Unite regional officer Dave Telford said: “Our members’ resolve has not wavered, and we will not back down. Unite put various proposals on the table today for the employer to accept and every time Go North East just refused to budge.

“There is only one party currently wishing to negotiate and that’s Unite. I urge Go North East to put its hands in its pocket and come up with the money that it will cost them to end this dispute – pocket change for a company making £85m in profits.”

“Drivers don’t want to be on strike, they want to be taking passengers around the North East to where they need to get to.

"This is a last resort and we have been frustrated because the employer will not address the pay disparity.”

Unite has claimed that the cost of meeting its demands would be approximately £238,000.

Ahead of the latest talks, Go North East released a statement confirming that it would be able to run some services, driven by office workers and managers with bus driving licences, to fill gaps left by the number of drivers on strike.

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