Go North East strikers limbering up for indefinite action at the Percy Main depot (Picture: Unite North East)

Around 1,300 bus workers at six Go North East depots have thrown out a last-minute pay offer and began an indefinite strike on Saturday.

They have already staged two week-long strikes this month. Unite union members didn’t just reject a proposed 10.3 percent uplift, they blew it out the water. The vote was 81 percent against the deal on a  93 percent turnout.

Go North East bosses were “baffled” by what they saw as the ingratitude of the workforce.

But they shouldn’t have been surprised. The offer would have taken drivers’ pay to £14.15 an hour. But as the union has repeatedly pointed out, that’s far less than those working for Go North West in Manchester, where drivers are paid up to £15.53 an hour.

It’s no easier to drive a bus in Sunderland than it is in Salford, so why does the same employer pay one lot less than the others? It’s because they think workers won’t kick back—but quite rightly they have.

Unite regional officer Mark Sanderson said, “We have drivers pushed to the brink of tiredness, working all hours and skipping meals to make ends meet—yet their employer shows nothing but callous disregard for their wellbeing.

Pickets were planned at depots in Consett, Hexham, Sunderland, Percy Main, Gateshead and Washington.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Go North East are betraying their workers and are now responsible for the disruption caused to people living in the North East.

“Their parent company is awash with cash, they pay their CEO six-figure salaries, and yet they pay their workforce such low wages they are forcing them to use foodbanks to feed their families.”

Unite, which called the latest offer “insulting”, should tell management that workers will not even consider an offer below £15.53 an hour. And it should encourage other bus workers to start their own campaigns for action to win on pay.

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