Unite has welcomed the announcement today (March 25) by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham that Greater Manchester will adopt a system of bus franchising.
Unite believes that the new system, which is scheduled to begin to come into effect in 2023, will dramatically improve the quality of services and increase regional connectivity.
Unite, which represents thousands of bus drivers across Greater Manchester, believes the franchising announcement will have a significant effect on the ongoing Go North West bus strike. Go North West’s parent company Go Ahead currently generates £604 million through franchising in London and will be keen to extend its influence in Greater Manchester.
It is expected the franchise model will be based on a quality contracts system, which enshrines worker engagement. Go North West’s attempts to fire and rehire its bus drivers is entirely anathema to such a franchising system and the company’s current actions are likely to count against them when bidding for franchise routes.
The rogue bus service currently being operated by Go North West to undermine the strike action, which has generated a dossier of safety concerns, would be prevented from operating under a franchising system.
Unite will also be lobbying to ensure that the franchise contracts include strict rules about minimum rates of pay, collective bargaining and measures to tackle long hours and bus driver fatigue.
Unite North West regional secretary Ritchie James said, “Bus franchising in Greater Manchester will go a long way to creating a level playing field for passengers and workers.
“It is essential that franchising contracts include strict rules on minimum employment standards so that bus companies can’t undercut each other by cutting workers’ pay and conditions and creating a race to the bottom,” he added.
“What is beyond doubt is that Go North West’s bully boy fire and rehire tactics will have no place in a bus franchising operation and the days of running round Manchester in entirely inadequate vehicles which don’t meet established standards, are at an end.”
“Unite is committed to working with the mayor Andy Burnham to ensure that the franchising system is a success for passengers and bus workers.”
By Barckley Sumner