Strike action against Go North West over fire and rehire ends with workers’ victory

Workers backed by Unite the union and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham won the dispute after more than 80 days of industrial action

Strike action against Go North West over fire and rehire ends with workers’ victory (Photo: Shutterstock/John B Hewitt)

One of the longest-running industrial disputes in British transport history has come to an end after an agreement was reached between Unite workers and Go North West bus company.

After more than 80 days of strike action over the companies attempts to fire and rehire drivers, which the union says would have cost drivers thousands of pounds a year.

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‘A tremendous victory’

After negotiations between Unite and Go North West’s parent company, the Go Ahead Group, a deal was agreed with improved pay and conditions for drivers and the company has agreed not to use fire and rehire in future.

Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new deal at a mass-meeting on Monday (17 May).

The action had been backed by Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham and Coronation Street actor, Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, said: “This is a tremendous victory by Unite’s members at Go North West who through their dedication, solidarity and commitment have defeated the attempt to fire and rehire them.

“I pay tribute to them, sustaining a strike during the challenge of lockdown, and thank this incredible community for their brilliant support through these long weeks which definitely helped keep heads held high.

"We're also delighted to have secured a clear commitment from the Go Ahead Group that fire and rehire will never be used by them, bringing relief to thousands of workers who feared that they were next.

He added: "Once again, the best defence for working people in this country is their union.

Starmer has called for ‘an end to fire and rehire’

Unite is one of a number of trade unions pushing back against the broader practice of fire and rehire in the UK.

A survey by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) found that around one in ten workers have been threatened with fire and rehire since the start of the pandemic.

Labour leader Keir Starmer referenced the practice in parliament last week, in his response to the Queen’s Speech.

He said: “For too long, millions of people across Britain have worked longer for lower pay, so where was the employment Bill that was promised in the last Queen’s Speech and repeatedly promised by Ministers? Nowhere to be seen.

“What was needed was a game-changing employment Bill to end fire and rehire, to give proper rights to every worker from day one and to raise the living wage to at least £10 an hour and go further as quickly as possible.”