Unite the Union are asking our drivers to strike indefinitely from Sunday 28 February. We've put together this guide to frequently asked questions to help keep you in the loop.
Q: Will my usual bus be running this week?
A: Yes. We know that thousands of key workers are relying on our buses during the pandemic – including those working in the NHS, schools, supermarkets and in other jobs vital to keeping the region going.
We’ve made arrangements to keep the network running during the strike. We’ll update you every day on times and frequencies, but passengers should be prepared for some changes.
To keep things operationally simple during the strike all cash fares will be set at £2 and all usual travel cards will be accepted.
Q: Have you called in operators from elsewhere in the region to keep buses moving?
A: Yes we have, so you may see buses with different livery operating your service.
Thousands of key workers use our buses. NHS workers need to get to Manchester Royal Infirmary and North Manchester General. Teachers need to get to schools. Essential retail staff need to get to supermarkets. Our buses also serve the vaccination hub at the Etihad Stadium. It is our responsibility to keep the network running so we have made arrangements with contractors to step in with replacement buses.
All providers have carried out COVID-19 risk assessments and are fully compliant. The usual protocols, including social distancing and wearing of facemasks, continue to apply.
Q: Where can I find service updates?
A: In lots of ways. Please download our smartphone app for the most up-to-date information.
You can also:
- Check our website, gonorthwest.co.uk
- Follow our feeds on Facebook or Twitter
- Send us a message on WhatsApp for a quick response – 07779 544650
- Phone us on 0330 1234 121
Q: How long will the disruption last?
A: Unite hasn’t provided us or customers with any indication of an end date for its industrial action. We are urging Unite to support change and a resolution based on discussion rather than strike action.
Go North West has an ethos built on finding solutions to the most pressing of problems through reaching agreements with colleague representatives. We nearly always achieve that, and it is unfortunate that this is an exception to the norm.
Q: What is the dispute about?
A: It’s about securing everyone’s’ jobs and the future of the depot. Since March 2020, Go North West has been attempting to agree a package of operational improvements with Unite at the company’s Queens Road depot, Manchester. The business is losing £1.8 million a year and unless we make changes, it will continue to make unsustainable losses putting 600 jobs in serious doubt.
We put forward a package known as RESET to our workforce that comprises a series of productivity enhancing proposals that will turn the company’s losses around and return the business to breakeven within three years. RESET only seeks to bring Queens Road into line with working practices already widespread in the industry.
More than 80% of drivers signed up to new terms on a voluntary basis. Nevertheless, Unite has called its members out on strike.
Q: What exactly are the changes you are making to driver contracts?
A: Our drivers are already among the very best paid in the region. As part of this deal they will get a £5,000 payment, plus two years’ inflation-linked pay rises and guarantees of no redundancies in return for amendments to their terms. These changes include allowing for improved and more efficient rosters, a reduction in ‘spare’ shifts under which drivers are not allocated any work content in advance (and often end up with no work to do) and ceasing outdated practices such as ‘blind time’ which is paid to drivers for winding manual destination blinds (despite the fact that we have not had manual blinds since 2002).
Q: Is anybody going to lose their job?
A: No. Nobody will lose their job under the terms of the new contracts.
Q: Are drivers facing pay cuts?
A: No. All drivers will be guaranteed inflation-linked pay increases for the next two years, plus the the offer of £5,000 as a lump sum.
Q: Are drivers being required to work longer hours?
A: Drivers will continue to be paid for all the hours they work. In some cases, drivers may be asked to take a longer meal break – this will still be no more than an hour, in line with many other industries, and it will often be shorter. Some shifts will be a few minutes longer on some days adding around 20-25 minutes per week.
Q: Is this a ‘fire and re-hire’ situation?
A: We emphatically reject that term. These are changes needed to make the business sustainable by stemming losses of £1.8 million annually. Drivers were invited to sign up to new terms on a voluntary basis and out of 474 drivers, 393 accepted. Unite, however, refused even to put the terms to a ballot of its members.
Unite has sought to link this to other disputes playing out in different industries. The big difference is that these are changes that are needed to save this business. Without addressing employment contracts, the Queens Road depot will simply not be viable and bus services will be cut.
Q: Are you withdrawing sickness support?
A: No, absolutely not. The company sick pay scheme remains one of the best offered by any bus operator in the north west. Drivers will be guaranteed nine months’ sick pay, including six months’ at 90%. Those off with COVID-19 related illnesses will continue to get sick pay under previous arrangements.