Go North East bus strike. Photo: Elaine Brunskill
Go North East bus strike. Photo: Elaine Brunskill

Elaine Brunskill, Newcastle Socialist Party

There was a real buzz on the picket line as Ratty, the giant inflatable rat, joined Unite strikers from Go North East.

Across the north east, over 1,300 Unite members are taking a further week of strike action, and this is set to be followed by an all-out strike if bosses continue to refuse to deliver a fair pay deal.

One of the drivers commented: “We are undervalued, underpaid, and angry that in such a high-pressure job, bosses still want to cut our terms and conditions”.

Other drivers gathered around to show me two job adverts from the Go-Ahead group (the Go North East parent company). Go North East is offering almost £5 an hour less than one of its other companies, just 150 miles away!

The strikers emphasised that so far they have only been offered a derisory, below-inflation pay offer. But to add insult to injury, strikers told us that bosses “are wanting us to fund our own pay rise by attacking our terms and conditions.” This would include shorter meal breaks, unpaid checks on vehicles, and unpaid time travelling from when they clock on at the depot to wherever the bus needs picking up from.

Unite points out that the latest accounts of the Go-Ahead Group show profits of almost £85 million.

Another issue which is causing huge concern is a massive increase in anti-social behaviour against drivers. One driver was even shot in the eye with a frozen ‘gel gun’ pellet. Strikers feel that the company doesn’t take these concerns seriously.

Fuel trucks, delivery drivers, and security guards arriving to pick up money have all refused to cross the picket line.

One of the strikers was looking at the article in the Socialist which featured their strike and spotted the adjacent article on Aslef’s rail strike – his partner was on that strike! It seems that amid a cost-of-living crisis everyone knows someone who is striking for better wages and conditions.