A NORTH EAST bus company which was accused of "wasting" thousands on paint jobs instead of a "suitable" pay rise could see its workforce strike in the run up to Christmas.

The Northern Echo understands Go North East drivers across all depots - including Consett and Chester-le-Street - could walkout after another offer was rejected.

It comes as the company, which operates across County Durham, Teesside and Tyne & Wear, was previously criticised by staff for rebranding buses "unnecessarily."

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

Go North East has since said conditions remain "challenging" for the industry following Covid and that it has tried to make an offer which recognises its "hardworking" colleagues while maintaining the company's viability. 

The Northern Echo: A Go North East bus at the company's depot in Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTA Go North East bus at the company's depot in Gateshead Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Staff across the company's nine depots voted on a fourth pay offer, with the overwhelming majority - about 70 percent - refusing a rise of 3.5 percent, earlier this month.

It is believed that talks between the company and union officials held this week were "unsuccessful" as the foundations to start industrial action had begun.

Read more: Go North East respond as drivers left 'fuming' over latest pay offer

One worker said drivers had continued to have ill-feeling, choosing to reject the offer, after it emerged a rival firm had offered staff a pay rise of four percent and a cash bonus.

The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "The drivers have refused it because other companies are being offered a lot higher.

"The general feeling is still there, it's not going to go away while they (the company) just throw their money away on paint jobs."

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

The company previously faced criticism after a number of its buses and routes were rebranded, despite a drivers calling for a four percent rise which "better reflected inflation" and the "responsibilities" of the job.

Read more: Go North East drivers left 'fuming' over latest pay rise offer

Revealing that drivers were expecting to receive a ballot on industrial action in coming weeks, the worker said they could end up "working-to-rule" or striking if a deal is not met.

They said: "This could be up to, and including, strike action if the company does not go round the negotiating table again.

"The legal process for industrial action takes several weeks to start and Unite have put that in place, which takes us up to the busy Christmas period."

'This offer remains on the table'

Go North East said that the latest offer had been "further enhanced" after an "acceptance recommendation" and that this remained on the table amid talk of industrial action.

A company spokesperson said: "These are challenging times for the bus industry with only around 75 percent of pre-pandemic passenger numbers and revenue meaning that the sector is currently loss making and has received support from Government to maintain many services. 

"Over the past few months we have been negotiating with Union colleagues on a pay offer which balances recognising the exceptional efforts of our hardworking team with protecting the viability of our company and maintaining jobs. 

"Since reaching agreement for a pay ballot with an acceptance recommendation that would ultimately deliver a 3.2 percent pay increase this year, this offer has been further enhanced to 3.5 percent and with an added increase for our new starter rates and faster progression through seniority pay scales for those on applicable rotas."

Go North East previously 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.

Unite the Union did not go into detail on any planned industrial action, but said it would be meeting with union officials at the company to discuss the next steps.

Dave Telford, regional officer at Unite the Union, added: “We will be meeting our reps at Go North East soon to decide the next steps in their pay dispute.

"One of the options we will consider is an industrial action ballot of our members.

"However, Unite won’t be commenting further until that meeting has been held and we have had the feedback from our reps.”


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