Go North West negotiations collapse without agreement as Manchester bus strikes set to continue

Date published: 08 April 2021

Protracted peace talks between management at Go North West and Unite, the UK’s leading union, collapsed without agreement late last week, meaning that the long running bus strike is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Local services affected by the strike are the 17 service between Rochdale, Middleton and Manchester Shudehill, the 18 between Langley and the Manchester Royal Infirmary and the 41 to Sale from Middleton as the only Go North West operated services in the Rochdale borough.

The union claims the company is threatening to ‘fire and rehire workers on inferior contracts’, with workers voting in favour of strike action earlier in February.

Over 400 drivers who are members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, have been on all out strike since Sunday 28 February. Saturday 4 April marked the end of the fifth week of strike action.



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

Unite also claims that under the ‘fire and rehire plans’ bus drivers who earn on average of £24,000 will be forced to work longer for no additional pay, as well as altering the existing sick pay policy. 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, whilst changes to sick pay would result in a 67% cut in sick pay for workers with over five years’ service.

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

Unite also claims that 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.

“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.”

Responding, Nigel Featham, Managing Director of Go North West, said: "Unite continues to make wild claims over supposed pay cuts, job losses and what they misleadingly call ‘fire and rehire’ that bear no resemblance whatsoever to the facts. 

“Go North West is losing nearly £2 million annually due to outdated working practices. The company’s initial proposal to turn around the company included no job cuts, guaranteed pay increases this year and next, and a £5,000 lump sum payment to each of its 480 drivers. Unite said ‘no’. 

“Our workforce is beside itself with worry, but instead of a constructive dialogue all we get from the local Unite representatives is a set of moving goal posts and a succession of U-turns. The reconciliation service ACAS became involved in talks five weeks ago and even they declared yesterday [1 April] they’d had enough.

“I think that says it all. 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 600 people’s jobs and livelihoods. 

“There is mounting anger within the workforce over Unite’s handling of negotiations and the calling of a strike. A third of our drivers have now returned to work and Go North West continues to provide vital bus services for essential workers despite the industrial action.”

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