'Fire and rehire' attack

Manchester bus drivers facing brutal attack on pay and conditions

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Nearly 500 Manchester bus drivers employed by Go North West are facing the threat of being fired and rehired, which will see a 10 per cent reduction in the number of drivers employed, an increase in unpaid working hours and drivers’ conditions slashed.

Unite has been in negotiations with management at Go North West, part of the Go Ahead Group, about the possibility of cost savings at the company’s Queens Road Depot and to develop a turnaround plan and maintain job security.

Last year, Go North West issued a section 188 notice, which would have resulted in the workforce being fired and then rehired. However, the process was halted to allow negotiations to take place.

Unite has made proposals for cost reductions of around £1 million and a pay freeze worth around £200,000. However the company has deemed these savings insufficient.

Last week, the company announced that it was no longer prepared to negotiate and is now attempting to restart the Section 188 process. This will see existing work schedules ripped up and workers will be nearly £2,500 per annum worse off as they will be forced to work longer hours for no additional pay.

The company is also proposing to tear up the existing sick pay agreement, a move that Unite believes is entirely unacceptable in a pandemic, as it will result in workers being forced to attend work when they are sick or should be self-isolating.

Unite is demanding that Go North West immediately suspend the threat of firing and rehiring workers who have worked throughout the pandemic and return to the negotiating table.

Unite is accusing Go North West of using the pandemic to force through changes that they had started to develop in 2019, long before the Covid-19 virus began to affect workers.

Unite regional secretary for the North West, Ritchie James, said, “Go North West are guilty of using the pandemic as cover for forcing through a brutal fire and rehire policy which will result in drivers being poorer and unable to take time off when they are sick.

“Unite accepts that a turnaround plan is needed for the Queen’s Road depot and has been fully prepared to enter into negotiations, but we will not accept our members facing intimidation and bullying tactics,” he added.

“The affected drivers are key workers who have kept Manchester moving throughout the pandemic, risking their health and that of their families; for that sacrifice to be treated in this way is simply disgraceful.

“If Go North West does not end the threat of fire and rehire, Unite will be utilising all available options to defend our members’ pay, conditions and job security,” he continued.

Unite senior steward Colin Hayden noted, “It’s extremely disappointing that Go North West have chosen this approach after taking over the business in 2019.

“We are now facing a vicious, pre-meditated attack on our pay, terms and conditions and job security – it’s a slap in the face for dedicated key workers in Manchester.

“We urge the company to sit back down with us so that we can find a joint solution to the issue.”

By Barckley Sumner

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