DATES have been announced for the Go North East driver strikes that will leave travel in Hexham at a standstill for a period of fourteen days.

Over thirteen hundred members are to strike for fourteen days after its members voted for industrial action over pay.

The first strike will between Saturday, September 30 till Friday, October 6 at midnight.

Normal service will then resume and start on Saturday, October 7 until Friday, 13 until the next strike which will be Saturday, 14 till Friday, October 20.

Go North East drivers voted for strike action over poor pay, where the ballot was 98 per cent in favour of industrial action with an 85 per cent turn out.

It was believed discussions between Unite and Go North East were in progress until Unite announced the strike dates today (September 18).

It is claimed by Unite, that Go North East drivers and engineers have been offered a derisory, below-inflation, pay offer that included cuts to terms and conditions.

Whereas administrative and clerical staff have not had any pay offer at all.

Unite, also claim that Go North East can 'easily afford' to increase pay offers given the latest accounts of its parent company, the Go-Ahead Group show bus group profits of £85million.

Depots that will be also affected by any industrial action are: Consett, Gateshead, Percy Main (North Shields), Sunderland and Washington.

Go North East claims that it has agreed to increase the pay of its drivers by 9.11 per cent; a rise which outpaces both the current CPI (6.4 per cent) and RPI (9.0 per cent) inflation rates.

For most drivers that would mean an extra £2,400 per year in their pay packet. Drivers who work overtime would see larger rises of closer to £2,900 per year or more.

But it has not been accepted as Ben Maxfield, Go North East business director, commented, “Our drivers are important to us, and we have shown a genuine commitment to their financial security by offering the real terms pay increase they have been asking for.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Go North East need to take a long hard look at themselves and how appallingly they’ve treated their workforce.”

“Our members will have the full support of their union as they take to the picket line in their fight for a fair pay deal.”

Unite regional officer Dave Telford added: “Unite has a laser-like focus on the jobs, pay and conditions of its members – we will use every resource at our disposal to bring victory to the workers.”

Hexham Cllr Suzanne Fairless-Aitken said: “The Go North East strikes mooted in the coming weeks for the Hexham Station are deeply worrying for Hexham residents - especially on the back of the train strikes.

“We keep being told by the government that there is ‘more money than ever before’ being pumped into local services, and this includes the bus companies.

“After years of under-investment this is not ’more’ – but what was long overdue. It seems none of this £19.5m last minute injection of cash announced earlier this year and being so widely promoted by local councillors seems to be filtering down to staffing, improving staffing conditions and delivering inflationary rises in pay in our local bus companies.

“The systems that support communications and commuting are vital to us in rural areas and need to be properly funded, especially where services are subsidised by local government.

“Something is broken in our country and I suspect only a change of government will actually bring necessary changes to infrastructure. We really need a ‘Transport for London’ style arrangement in the coming North of England devolution that oversees our transport systems and roads, if not complete re-nationalisation of these services…not just more money thrown away on the disastrous HS2 project.”