A NORTH EAST bus company has left its drivers "fuming" after it emerged new starters would see their pay increase, despite concerns over pay conditions for existing staff.

Go North East, which runs services across County Durham, Teesside and Tyne & Wear, has been again criticised for its latest pay rise offer. 

The Northern Echo understands a third offer is due to be decided next week after two were rejected by drivers since talks first began in July, earlier this year.

It comes as all existing drivers have been offered a 3.2 percent rise, but staggered over the course of this year and next, while the pay rates for new starters will go up from around £9.04 to £10 an hour - around 10 percent - immediately.

Read more: Go North East respond after bus drivers claim staff are ‘walking out’ due to pay

Go North East has responded saying its revenue has been impacted by the pandemic and that it has "worked hard" to deliver an improved pay offer for existing staff.

The Northern Echo: The Go North East depot in Riverside Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTThe Go North East depot in Riverside Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Meanwhile, it said that it had been unable to recruit the desired number of new starters due to Covid, and that it was necessary to make entry-level pay rates more competitive as a result.

But one worker said there remained ill-feeling over the latest pay offer as they were told it would not be paid in full until next April.

The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "There has been two pay offers - one for two percent and another for 2.5 percent plus the loss of our bonus - rejected.

"They have put out a new offer of 3.2, but it will be staggered with 2.5 percent backdated to July, 0.5 in January and another 0.2 in April.

"However, they want to put up the wage for new starters because people aren't applying because of their low pay."

Drivers previously raised concerns over the original pay offer of two percent, saying their rate of pay did not reflect the responsibility or take into account inflation and that this had prompted some to leave. 

The worker said: "The general feeling now is that everybody is fuming, the general feeling is that we're heading towards this offer being rejected as well.

The Northern Echo: The Go North East depot in Riverside Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTThe Go North East depot in Riverside Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

"If they were willing to pay it straight away in one go, then people would be less hostile about it."

If the latest pay rise offer is rejected, the company could see workers potentially stage industrial action, including a refusal to work overtime or strike.

The company was earlier this year accused of "wasting thousands" on repainting its fleet of buses in favour of offering a "suitable" pay rise back in July.

At the time, the company hit back and said that the rebranding was necessary if it was to "attract" customers in the wake of the pandemic.

Read more: Go North East respond after bus drivers claim staff are ‘walking out’ due to pay

In response to the latest concerns, the company said it had worked hard to deliver a "third and final" pay offer, and that it was not viable to pay this in one go.

Stephen King, Commercial Director at Go North East, said that the approach had been decided in line with how it anticipates passenger numbers will grow back.

He said: “Because we have recruited so few new starters during the pandemic, we are also able to bring up our first and second-year pay rates to a minimum of £10 an hour.

"This will also help make our entry-level pay rates more competitive for new starters in comparison to other sectors and in what has quickly become very challenging times for staff recruitment everywhere, not just on the buses.

"In overall terms, this has little financial cost due to so few colleagues still being on our lowest rates by the time the pay deal goes live, and we expect some savings in our recruitment, training, and retention costs."

Mr King said that it was unfair to suggest that longer-serving workers are not recognised, saying they receive higher pay rates with further enhancements paid after two years.

He said the company had been working hard to make buses a more viable option - including special fares - to address losses and pay for cost increases such as pay.

He added: “This is a very good pay deal, especially so in the current climate.

"It is far in excess of inflation this year and is tabled against the backdrop of a loss-making position for our company currently and economic challenges in the world around us.

"It has been negotiated with our colleague's Union representatives who have agreed a majority recommendation ahead of the ballot."


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