Go North East (GNE) has reached a 'breakthrough' in talks with union representatives.

The region's biggest bus operator has offered a pay hike of 10.3 per cent, raising average drivers’ wages by nearly £2,700 annually.

Those clocking in overtime could see rises of more than £3,000 per year.

This would take drivers to a hourly rate of £14.15, and if accepted, it would propel drivers to the top of the regional pay league.

This package comes despite the company registering losses of £4.3 million in its most recent published accounts.

If the proposal is accepted, drivers will also be guaranteed a further above-inflation pay increase next year.

It could also avert 12 weeks of strike action that was scheduled to begin on Saturday, October 28.

Go North East business director, Ben Maxfield, said: “An end to strike action would bring a huge sense of relief. Staff have been worried sick about the damage a 12-week stoppage will cause, and passengers face massive and unnecessary disruption to their daily lives.

“We have spent a lot of time listening to colleagues and worked collaboratively with the union to fine-tune our pay proposals. We are proud that this milestone move will see our drivers top the earnings league in the North East.”

Unite confirmed that the offer has been formally tabled and a vote will close at 12pm Friday.

A spokesperson for Unite the Union said: “I can confirm this offer has been formally tabled and Unite will be balloting its members on whether to accept or not.

"The ballot will close at 12pm on Friday so the continuous industrial action scheduled for 00:00 Sat will be dependent on whether members choose to accept it.”

Mr Maxfield is urging employees to back the pay rise.

He said: “We are urging all our employees to support the deal so we can get back to focusing on providing the high quality, reliable, and growing bus transport network the region deserves”.