Go North West drivers could receive £5,000 cash windfall amid threats of industrial action

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Go North West has offered each of its 500 driving staff a £5,000 cash lump sum in exchange for productivity improvements at its Queens Road depot, which currently makes a loss.

Go North West Managing Director Nigel Featham

Should the proposals be agreed, the £2.5m package will be paid to drivers this autumn in exchange for amendments to the company’s employment terms and conditions.

The company’s Managing Director Nigel Featham explained that many of the working practices at the depot – which was taken over by Go-Ahead last year – have been in use since the 1980s, and need to change if the business is going to succeed: “There are some real throwbacks in there and while individually these may seem harmless, together they add up to a huge waste of resource each year.

“For us it’s a simple choice between continuing to sustain annual losses or improving our performance to a point where we eventually return the business back into profit. Ironically, this investment will help us to deal better in the long-term with the fallout from coronavirus.

“The alternatives entail making redundancies, cuts to services and having unhappy employees on our hands.

“This way, everybody is a winner, nobody loses out, and we can continue to grow and expand the business in the future, safeguarding jobs in uncertain times.”

Some of the ‘throwbacks’ referred to above include drivers being paid to rewind manual destination blinds (despite the availability of digital units), being allocated ‘dead’ shifts where they don’t have to take buses out, and being allowed to ask passengers to leave the bus mid-journey if they are late finishing a shift.

Go North West also wants to align its sickness pay scheme with the rest of the industry.

The drivers’ union, Unite, is due to give its decision on whether to accept the new productivity deal next week, although it alleges the lump sum offer will see drivers out of pocket within three years when wage reductions brought about by the revised employment terms and conditions are factored in.

Unite Regional Officer Steve Davies said: “What we have in Manchester is an odious sleight of hand where a bullying management style and the excuse of COVID-19 are being used to deprive our members of about £2,000-a-year – despite the fact that they are working just as hard and putting in the same hours.

“The company’s Managing Director Nigel Featham is using heavy-handed tactics by calling in our reps individually for ‘a dressing down’ to force through the one-off payment of £5,000 – and then uses the local media as his preferred way to negotiate.

“The company has focused its demands for financial cutbacks on the bus drivers alone – and the top bosses and backroom staff are exempt, which smacks of discrimination.

“We recognise that the whole country and the transport sector are going through difficult times because of the pandemic, but Unite is not going to stand by as our members are forced to take a severe hit to their pay packets. Attempts to intimidate the union will not work and will only strengthen our resolve to protect our members.

“We call on Mr Featham to negotiate in a meaningful fashion or face the very real prospect of an industrial action ballot.”