Go North West, which is part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead Group, has been accused of using taxpayers’ money to furlough workers caught up in the current strike. 

Over 400 bus drivers are taking industrial action as a result of the company’s attempts to fire and rehire the workforce.

Rogue bus service

Rather than seek a settlement to the dispute, Go North West has launched a ‘rogue bus service’ and has moved its operations from its Queens Road depot to a separate location in the city. The company is using non-unionised bus companies and bringing in drivers from outside the area to operate the ‘rogue service’.

As a consequence of the decision to relocate its depot, the company has decided to furlough several workers usually based at the Queens Road depot rather than require them to work at the separate depot. The affected workers include shunters, re-fuellers and cleaners.

Taxpayers' money

By using the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS), the company is effectively using government money to undermine legal strike action. Unite has contacted HMRC to raise its concerns about Go North West’s actions and question their legality.

New low

Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said: “This is a new low by Go North West.

“It is a disgrace that Go North West are using taxpayers’ money to furlough workers to try to undermine a lawful strike.

“If Go North West needs to furlough the workers it should be paying the workers directly, rather than using taxpayers’ money to subsidise its strike breaking activities.

“Unite has contacted HMRC to question the legality of Go North West’s actions, which are corrupting the furlough scheme. If it is not illegal it should be and it is most certainly immoral.”

Second week of strikes

The 400 plus bus drivers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, are now in their second week of continuous all out strike action, having recorded an 82 per cent vote in favour of industrial action. Strike action began on Sunday 28 February.

The dispute is a result of Go Ahead attempting to fire and rehire its drivers on vastly inferior contracts. Under its fire and rehire plans, Go North West intends to force drivers, who earn £24,000 a year, to work on average three hours a week extra for no additional pay. 

Pay cut

This is an effective pay cut of £2,500, resulting in workers’ spending less time with family and loved ones.

In addition, as part of its fire and rehire proposals, Go North West are seeking to reduce the number of drivers by 10 per cent and is also seeking to slash the value of drivers’ sick pay during a pandemic.

Overcrowded buses

Having raised serious safety concerns before the ‘rogue service’ was launched, last week Unite revealed how Go North West was risking the health of Greater Manchester residents by flouting social distancing rules and operating extremely overcrowded buses.

The strikes are affecting passenger across the Greater Manchester area and beyond. Go North West operates 130 buses on 30 routes in Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Trafford and Warrington.

Fire and rehire like a disease

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Fire and rehire' is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. 

"Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.

"It's a disgraceful practice that's outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.

"Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency.  We won't stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack."


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.