Covid smokescreen used to slash pay

Unite says Go Ahead Group has to stop slashing pay and conditions

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Unite has launched an international campaign today (September 9) to stop the owners of the Manchester bus company Go North West from using Covid-19 as cover for making savage cuts to bus drivers’ pay and conditions, while victimising and gagging a Unite union representative.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey has written to Go Ahead Group’s CEO David Brown to warn him that Unite will be using all available resources to provide “immediate assistance to our members”.

“In addition to industrial action this will mean exposing your company’s behaviour to all of your stakeholders, partners and associates” said McCluskey.

“This will include mobilising all of our allies and contacting our significant political network in the Nordic countries, Germany and Australasia.”

Despite continuing to make millions in profits, Go North West’s parent company, Go-Ahead is trying to use Covid-19 as cover to make savage cuts to bus drivers’ pay, terms and conditions in Manchester.

Fire and rehire

The company is intending to ‘fire’ the entire workforce to get what they want and then ‘rehire’ those that agree to accept inferior contracts. At the same time management is trying to ‘gag’ and sack Colin, a union rep who refused to agree the company’s demands.

Unite is calling on the company to stop ‘fire and rehire’, stop the bullying and stop the cuts and enter into constructive negotiations with the drivers’ union Unite. The drivers are currently being consulted on industrial action.

The company is demanding that drivers accept cuts to terms and conditions, including changes to their scheduling agreement that will cost each driver £3,500 per year on average, an unpaid increase in working hours and slashing sick pay arrangements.

But Go Ahead PLC is a profitable company. The company expects its overall operating profit for the year ending June 27 2020 to be between £63m to £75m. There is no need to cut the pay and conditions of workers. This is being done out of greed – purely to increase profit.


After refusing to sign away the terms and conditions of his members, union rep Colin, is being threatened with the sack on trumped up charges. As the only union rep not ‘furloughed’, Colin was singled out and repeatedly, bullied by senior managers who wanted him to agree cuts without talking to his members. As part of Colin’s suspension notice the company included a ‘gagging order’, banning him from speaking to anyone who worked for Go Ahead including family members.

“Despite continuing to make millions in profits, Go head are trying to use COVID 19 to ‘fire and rehire’ their drivers and make savage cuts to pay, terms and conditions in Manchester,” commented Unite executive officer, Sharon Graham said.

“The company has targeted, bullied and victimised our union rep to try to bulldoze through its plans. This is the tip of the iceberg. If Go Ahead get away with this in Manchester they will try and roll-out ‘fire and rehire’ elsewhere. Unite will not allow bad employers to use Covid-19 to attack their workforce.

“Go North West’s managing director Nigel Featham has put the company on course for an unnecessary conflict. His actions could lead to lasting damage to the reputation of Go Ahead both throughout this country and overseas.

“Our message to the company is fair and simple – drop the disciplinary action against our union representative, drop your ‘fire and rehire’ threat and get around the negotiating table.  Unite will not let profitable firms like Go Ahead use the pandemic as cover for cuts.”

By Ciaran Naidoo

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