GO North East has forgotten its roots and the communities that built its transport empire, according to Unite, Britain’s leading trade union.

As the all-out continuous strikes at Go North East are expected to enter a second week, Unite members are calling on Go North East management to consider the communities that helped launch their business in the 1980s.

The Go-Ahead Group was originally founded in 1987 as Go-Ahead Northern Limited as part of the wider privatisation of the National Bus Company.

The drivers’ rate of pay at Go North East is £12.83 per hour yet the same workers at Go North West earn £15.53 per hour. 

This equates to a loss of £105 per week on a 39-hour week or £5,475 per year.

Unite research shows Go North East workers have not had a pay rise for over five years (when adjusted for inflation) and salaries have fallen by five per cent since 2018.

Ben Maxfield, business director at Go North East, said: “We are surprised and disappointed that Unite continues to urge its members to strike. We have offered our bus drivers a 10.3 per cent pay rise which would make them the highest paid drivers in the north-east with hourly rates of £14.15. This increase comes on top of a 10 per cent rise a year ago, and is accompanied by a guarantee of an above-inflation increase next year.

“We see no need or justification for this industrial action. It’s not in our interests, or our passengers’ interests, to have a strike but unfortunately it appears that the union is determined to force a strike, whatever we put on the table.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Go-Ahead group has plenty of money and doesn’t hesitate to pay its CEO a six-figure salary but won’t stump up the cash for those who do the real work driving its buses.

“Go North East was built on the backs of workers on Tyneside and yet it has now forgotten the communities that helped build its transport empire. Unite will be fully supporting our members in their fight for fair pay.”

Unite regional officer Mark Sanderson added: “This strike is all of Go North East’s making. They could come back to the table with an offer that addresses the current low pay at Go North East, but its refusal to do so speaks volumes about the low esteem they hold the people of the North East in.”