Go North East drivers in County Durham WILL strike over the closure of a major bus depot later this year, The Northern Echo can today reveal.
Drivers at the firm’s Chester-le-Street depot will walk out, leaving services disrupted, in coming weeks after the company failed to strike a deal with staff.
It comes as the firm has been heavily urged to reverse plans to shut the depot and relocate staff several miles away by drivers, businesses and even politicians.
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Services including the 21 between Newcastle, Durham and Brandon and the X21 between Newcastle and Bishop Auckland are among those set to be affected.
Last night, the firm said it is “disappointed” in the result after a ballot held by Unite the Union saw drivers formally vote for strike action – adding that talks were ongoing.
The ballot, which saw more than 61 percent of staff vote in favor, means around 150 drivers will be expected to refuse work, once strike dates are announced.
Read more: The Go North East Chester-le-Street services that could be hit if drivers strike
And in another blow, it is understood that hundreds of drivers at other deposits, who are part of Unite, will not be allowed to drive any services that “undermine” the strikes.
Mark Sanderson, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, suggested that it is not too late to avoid strikes as they said drivers continued to fight to save the depot.
He said: “Unite members have emphatically voted for strike action in the fight to keep the depot in Chester-le-Street open and preserve bus services in Durham.
“We urge Go-Ahead to rethink its ill-thought-out policy and reverse the decision to close the town’s deposit.”
Last month, The Echo revealed that drivers had been offered a compensatory package totalling £2,250 for the upheaval of transferring to deposits as far as Gateshead.
At the time, the firm, which has blamed the closure on the “financial” challenges facing the company, said the offer was available but only if they do not strike.
Read more: Go North East faces claims Chester-le-Street depot was ‘run down’ by firm
However, drivers and union officials have questioned the company’s reasonings, claiming the depot had been allowed to become “run down” and in a poor state.
Meanwhile, drivers raised concerns over the long-term costs to relocate, the impact on their family lives and the wider impact on services and economy in the town.
In an internal memo following confirmation of the strikes, the company’s outgoing Managing Director, Martijn Gilbert, said the firm had attempted to avoid strike action.
Read more: Leaked letter to Go North East staff reveal more details of bus depot closure
It went on to say that strike action will “inflict further damage” to services, revenue and finances companywide.
He maintained that the depot “will be closing” due to a “business decision” previously set out, while saying that not everyone eligible had formally voted for industrial action.
In response to the strike action, Go North East said talks would continue with Unite the Union in a bid to avoid such industrial action taking place.
A spokesperson said: We are aware of the disappointing ballot result for industrial action from local service bus colleagues at our Chester-le-Street depot.
“Talks with Unite the Union founders are ongoing over the coming days to try and avoid industrial action which is disruptive for colleagues and our customers.”
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