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Home » Go North East Drivers in Canada in Bid to Stop Strikes

Go North East Drivers in Canada in Bid to Stop Strikes

by Cody Doyle
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Go North East (GNE) bus drivers have travelled to Canada in a bid to end an indefinite strike over pay.

They met officials from a union in Toronto linked to a firm which has a controlling share in the companies which run GNE’s parent, Go Ahead.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) said it would use its “power” to “pressure this company to treat working people decently”.

GNE said it wants to “reach a deal which is fair on all sides”.

It comes as talks between Unite the Union and the bus operator resumed this week.

About 1,300 workers from its depots in Gateshead, Sunderland, Hexham, Washington, Percy Main and Consett, walked out on 28 October.

Go North East bus
Image caption,Go North East operates services from six depots across the region

The group that travelled to Canada was made up of two bus drivers and two union officials.

It is understood this was the first meeting of several planned with overseas firms connected to Go Ahead, unless the dispute can be resolved.

Suzanne Reid, regional co-coordinating officer for Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, told the BBC the meeting was “well-received” by officials in Toronto.

She said: “It’s about time we push forward this dispute internationally.

“We’re getting no resolve locally, we want this resolved, we want the buses back on the round and we want all of our members to work.

“This is not a dispute in the North East, this is an international dispute and we will put pressure where we can.”

OPSEU does not own stakes in the parent, but is connected to the OP Trust which has controlling shares in New Zealand-based Kinetic and Spanish-owned Globalvia – both of which own Go Ahead.

Go Ahead previously said it backed the approach being taken by Go North East management.

Following the visit, OPSEU’s president JP Hornick said they “stand with Go North East workers in their fight for fair wages” and the dispute had now become “our fight”.

“The company can afford to pay to end this dispute,” they said.

“This is a crucial fight for decent pay and conditions and defending the right to bargain collectively.

“We will use all our power with OP Trust to get them to pressure this company to treat working people decently.”

The OP Trust said that although its own officials attended the meeting with Go North East drivers, they did so “noting that we respect the collective bargaining process and do not intervene”.

Go North East said it was continuing to work with the union back in England to bring the dispute to an end.

It has said its offer of 10.3% this year, followed by an above-inflation rise next year, was “unprecedented”.

Unite wants the firm to match pay rates of £15.53 per hour at neighbouring Go North West.

Business director Ben Maxfield said “Unite are, of course, free to talk to anybody they choose” but the “best way of settling this is for them to negotiate with us here in the North East”.

He said the offer, which would bring the pay up to £14.15 per hour, would “make our drivers the best paid in the region”.

Kinetic and Globalvia were approached for comment.

Source : BBC

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