Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 53 Number 33, December 21, 2023 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Movement

Go North East Bus Workers Accept Pay Deal after Five Weeks on Strike

Go North East workers outside the company's Dunston depot - Photo: Newcastle Chronicle

Following a prolonged industrial dispute, reports union Unite, transport workers at Go North East have secured a substantial pay increase [1].

Drivers, engineers and administrative staff earning up to £40,000 per year accepted a significantly improved offer, the details of which include:

"Go North East workers should be congratulated on their victory for better pay. They stood together in unity until their employer returned to negotiations and made an improved offer," Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said. Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab added: "I'm delighted our members have secured this substantial pay increase. Thanks to their tireless efforts on picket lines and at protests they have secured the pay increase they deserve."

The bus workers had been striking since October 28, and the agreement came just a week after the union announced that the workers were being balloted to continue strike action [2]. At that time said Unite, despite protracted negotiations, the company had still not formally made an improved offer.

Three weeks earlier, on November 10, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak wrote to Go North East's Managing Director, Nigel Featham, urging for immediate action to resolve the dispute [3]. Nowak told of a "two-tier pay system", where bus workers in the North East were being paid 20% less than their colleagues in the North West. Many of the workforce have had to cut back on essentials, such as food and energy, and some have even been skipping meals and using food banks, he said.

The company could meet workers' demands with just 0.28% of its annual profits, he wrote, but the company was at that time continuing to refuse to change its offer. He also pointed to the pay-the-rich scheme whereby Go Ahead has received millions in public money.

The context of the dispute with the Go Ahead group is a situation in which the public transport, which is an important social programme, has, as part of the anti-social offensive, been converted from a public into a private concern. Rather than considered as a public service, that is, run with the aim of serving the people's needs, the sector is based on vested interests and fragmented into mutually-competing parts. Against that background, and in the conditions that they are disempowered and excluded from decisions affecting their work and conditions, as well as over the direction transport being taken, transport workers are having to fight on the basis that Enough is Enough.

To win this pay deal in this context against intransigent employers is indeed a victory in defence of their rights and claims on the value they create, and it points to the necessity to stop paying the rich, increase investments in social programmes, and to change the direction of the economy and its transport sector.

With the hardship of no buses for five or six weeks, still the support of the people of the North East for the transport workers remained strong, contributing to their victory. People are aware of the necessity of the workers to fight to continue to serve the public and receive a wage commensurate with their commitment to the public good.

1. "Unite, the UK's leading union, has secured a significant pay award for Go North East workers it was announced today", Unite, December 1, 2023
2. "Go North East workers balloted to continue industrial action for fair pay", Unite, November 24, 2023
3. "TUC General Secretary intervenes in Go North East bus dispute", TUC, November 10, 2023


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