Bus firm 'must roll up sleeves' to resolve strike


A North East transport boss has slammed a bus company for its response to a long-running industrial dispute, which he said is causing real harm to people across the region and damaging its bus network.

Workers at all depots of operator Go North East, including include drivers, engineers, maintenance workers and depot crews, are taking part in an all-out continuous strike action, which began on 28 October.

The Unite union said the company had offered its members a ‘derisory’, below inflation pay offer that included cuts to terms and conditions, but ‘can easily afford to increase its pay offer given the latest accounts of its parent company, the Go-Ahead Group shows bus group profits of nearly £85m’.

Go North East said its offer of a 10.3% increase would make drivers the best-paid in the region and admitted that ‘the vast majority’ its buses will remain parked up.

Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: ‘This situation is dire and is causing real harm to people and communities in Gateshead and across the region. We are ten days into a continuous bus strike – following two earlier separate week-long strike periods.

‘Go North East says that normally around 175,000 journeys are made on its bus services every day, and behind that statistic sit 175,000 stories of real people who are now struggling to get around.'

Martin Gannon

Cllr Gannon described the situation as evidence that the commercial bus market is ‘completely broken’.

He said: ‘Since the mid-80s our bus system has been deregulated, meaning that local councils have no control over bus companies like Go North East.

‘Although we have no active role in this dispute, we do have an obligation to our residents to make sure that Go North East’s behaviour does not go unpunished. As local authorities we pay the company many millions each year for carrying concessionary passes and to shore up unprofitable routes. I will be making sure that every possible financial penalty is applied for non-delivery.’

Cllr Gannon said the firm ‘should not be receiving a penny’ of £163.5m of national bus improvement funding ‘until they are providing a bus service worthy of the name’.

He warned: ‘At the Joint Transport Committee we are looking at other options for the delivery of bus services in future, and this terrible episode will undoubtedly help to inform our thinking.

‘The management of Go North East needs to stop putting out aggressive communications and instead roll up its sleeves, today – right now, and work constructively with its employees and their trade union to get the buses running again tomorrow.’

The North East Joint Transport Committee comprises members from the North East Combined Authority and the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

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