A NORTH EAST bus company has been accused of "wasting thousands" on paint jobs in favour of a "suitable" pay rise, creating ill-feeling among employees, it has been claimed.

Go North East, which operates services across County Durham, Teesside and Tyne & Wear, has been criticised for rebranding buses instead of offering a four percent rise.

It has since been claimed that some services facing disruption are suffering problems due to a number of staff walking out over the level of pay in recent weeks.

Read more: This is the Covid situation in the North East's hospitals - as figures revealed

Go North East has responded saying the bus industry has suffered from a "dramatic fall" in revenue due to the pandemic, saying they recognise the "hard work" of colleagues and have tried to offer something "sensible."

It has also said that the rebranding of services is necessary if it is to "attract" customers, while saying that its level of turnover this year has been in line with other years.

The Northern Echo understands that drivers from all depots, including Chester-le-Street and Consett, are due to vote on a two per cent pay increase on Wednesday.

The Northern Echo: The Riverside depot at Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTThe Riverside depot at Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

One worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "We're being offered two per cent, our pay rise was denied last year, and to keep up with inflation we need to have four percent.

"People have been leaving because of the pay, the way we're headed we're going to be on minimum wage in a few years time."

Read more: Arriva issue statement as Durham and Darlington services are affected by disruption

The worker, who said they believed the wage needed to reflect the responsibility of passengers, said a recent programme of rebranding of routes and paint jobs had come at the wrong time.

They said: "It leaves an ill feeling. It feels like there's so much money being wasted on painted vehicles - everyone is starting to notice that it's just constantly painting vehicles in unnecessary liveries."

In an internal briefing sent to The Northern Echo, the company said it currently is suffering from "short-term driver staffing" challenges, which it expects to face for the next two to three weeks. 

The briefing went on to say that some services will be disrupted due to absences, a high number of non-workplace related track and trace notifications, and recruitment delays due to a backlog of new licence applications at the DVLA.

The worker said: "There's been a high turnover of staff in the last few weeks - they're needing to apply for new licences because people are leaving, then DVLA are having a backlog.

The Northern Echo: The company has said the repaints are "necessary" Picture: GO NORTH EAST/NORTHERN ECHOThe company has said the repaints are "necessary" Picture: GO NORTH EAST/NORTHERN ECHO

"People are then leaving as everything is opening back up, job opportunities are coming back up, and they're able to find other jobs."

Responding, Go North East refuted claims it had rebranded a number of services unnecessarily saying such investment is needed to "attract" more customers, in turn allowing for further pay rises.

Stephen King, Commercial Director at Go North East, said the two per cent pay offer comes as the company recovers from the impact on transport during the pandemic, while saying it hopes to return to a "more stable" financial position.

He said: "This year we have made a two per cent pay offer to our driving team colleagues and this is now subject to a workplace ballot which has been organised for Wednesday.

"This follows a pay freeze agreed last year in the depths of the pandemic when public transport usage, and therefore revenue, fell dramatically.

"Much of the bus industry is still heavily loss making as a result of this, and a slow recovery of passenger numbers, and has been supported by the Government in the short term.

"Longer term we hope to return to a more stable financial position and this pay offer is based on a forward expectation on that.

"We recognise the hard work of colleagues, and rising costs in the world around us, and have therefore tried our best to offer something sensible, even though our business has yet to recover, whilst also ensuring no redundancies and protecting the workforce."

Mr King, who said the rebranding of services was part of an "ongoing programme" of fleet investment which pre-dated the pandemic, said the company needed to continue to improve the product to aid recovery of passenger numbers.

Responding to the claims services were being partly-disrupted due to a high turnover of staff, Mr King said: "There has been a small amount of disruption to services as a result of a high number of non work related track and trace app self-isolation alerts.

"Driver turnover rates are in line with previous years and we have a waiting list of new recruits wanting to come and fill our vacancies, but some of their start dates are subject to a short term delay thanks to the DVLA issues.

"This is a national issue, affecting the freight and passenger sectors. It is not a problem specific to Go North East.

"All routes are still running, but we have put out some pro-active messaging to customers and colleagues to advise of possible delays, just like other local transport operators are also encountering as a result of this."


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054