Bus drivers on the Unite union picket line in Consett (Picture: Unite North East)

Go North East bus drivers are voting on whether to end their all-out strike after forcing bosses to offer more money. The 1,300 Unite union members began voting on the new pay offer of 11.2 percent on Tuesday. 

Unite leaders have recommended that strikers accept the pay rise, which would see wages go from £12.83 to £14.27 an hour from 1 January next year. There would also be a further rise from 1 July 2024—a minimum of 4 percent or in line with inflation. 

Workers would also receive a 10.5 percent rise backdated to 1 July 2023, and keep the same terms and conditions. 

The indefinite strike has forced bosses to make the inflation-busting offer. But the strikers were fighting for a pay increase in-line with Go North West drivers in Manchester who are on £15.54 an hour. Workers should vote to reject the deal—and strike on for parity. 

Strikers had also been voting on whether to extend their strike. The drivers were on strike for two weeks from 30 September to 20 October before escalating to indefinite action on 28 October. This put immense pressure on Go North East to make an improved offer.

Bosses have tried to undermine the strike with scab labour. City Transport Group is running an hourly scab service in some areas. Go North East has been continuing to run school and some contracted routes, as well as a restored skeleton service in the last few weeks. This is being covered by office workers and managers with bus driver licenses and scabs. 

But strikes have had a big impact, hitting depots in Consett, Gateshead, Hexham, Percy Main (North Shields), Sunderland and Washington.

During the course of the strike, the drivers rejected a 10.3 percent rise by 81 percent on a 93 percent turnout. Workers had backed strikes by 98 percent on a turnout of nearly 85 percent. 

Unite officials and employees protested in London on Tuesday and Wednesday. They targeted the UK Bus Awards and the offices of Govia offices, which has joint ventures with the Go Ahead Group. 

The strikers were right to take all-out action and are right to stay on strike while they vote over the offer. They’ve managed to keep their terms and conditions as well as squeeze the bosses for a higher offer.

They should vote to reject the offer and keep up the strikes to win more. 

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