Manchester bus drivers fight fire and rehire plans

Strike ballot in Manchester bus drivers fire and rehire dispute

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Unite will begin balloting its members at bus company Go North West in Manchester for strike action this week, in a dispute over the company’s decision to impose new contracts of employment by firing and rehiring its workforce, resulting in cuts to jobs, pay and conditions.

Go North West, which is part of the Go Ahead Group, first threatened to fire and rehire its workforce last summer but Unite was able to get the process halted and entered into negotiations.

The union proposed a million pounds worth of savings and in addition a further saving of £200,000 as a result of accepting a year long pay freeze for the workers based at the Queens Road Depot.

However the savings identified by Unite were not sufficient for Go North West and the company is now forcing through its fire and rehire proposals, which will, if implemented, result in a ten percent cut in the number of bus drivers, while the workers who remain, who earn an average of £24,000 a year, would be forced to work longer, with no additional pay. This would leave them £2500 worse off each year.

The proposals would also entail tearing up the existing sick policy, which will force workers to work when they are sick or should be self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ballot for strike action will open tomorrow (January 26) and the ballot will close on Tuesday, February 9. Unite has just under 500 members at the depot.

If members vote in favour of industrial action then strikes could begin before the end of February.

The company is already forcing workers to attend one-to-one meetings and telling them that if they agree to the new contract within seven days, they will receive favourable routes and schedules.

Unite is highly concerned that this amounts to intimidation, bullying and blackmail and is investigating whether the company’s actions breach employment law.

Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said, “Go North West has refused to end its threat of firing and rehiring its workers and is instead pushing ahead with its proposals, which will result in job losses, pay cuts and slashed sick pay.

“As a result, Unite has no option but to begin balloting its members for strike action,” he added.

“If members vote for industrial action, strikes could begin before the end of February. This would inevitably create a huge amount of disruption to public transport in the Manchester area.

“Unite is committed to returning to the negotiating table but in order to do so Go North West must first remove the threat of firing and rehiring our members.”

By Barckley Sumner

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