Andy Burnham
Fire and re-hire has no place in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said. Standing for re-election as Greater Manchester Mayor, on Wednesday he slammed the bosses of Go North West, currently in a ‘fire and re-hire’ dispute with bus drivers.

Mayor Andy Burnham said: “I do not believe that the way in which this has been handled by Go is right. I do not believe the Go North West drivers have been treated fairly,” adding that he would not allow bus franchising in Greater Manchester to be a “race to the bottom” for employment standards.

On Wednesday Andy Burnham returned from the striking Go North West drivers’ picket line at Queen’s Road depot with the thinly veiled message that if the company keeps to its ‘fire and re-hire’ stance it will have little chance of winning any future contracts in Greater Manchester.

At the end of March, Burnham announced that Greater Manchester will be going ahead with a franchising system for local buses, and companies will have to bid for contracts. Many of the striking drivers believe that Go North West’s policy of firing and re-hiring workers on worse conditions is to enable it to put low cost bids into that process.

Andy Burnham, currently standing for re-election as Greater Manchester Mayor, has now underlined that “We will not allow franchising of our buses to be a race to the bottom when it comes to people’s terms and conditions.”

He explained that an improvement in employment standards will be central if he wins a second term of office in May, and that this would be enshrined via the ‘social value’ weighting in any procurement contract bidding.

“If you treat the people who operate the system fairly I believe that is the way in which you raise the standard of the service to the public and that principle matters to me,” said Burnham. 

“I have made it clear today that, as we move ahead with franchising in Greater Manchester, we will link the process to the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter to embed that principle of fair treatment of staff, leading to good standards of public service.”

Referencing that bus drivers have been working on the frontline throughout the pandemic, he added: “The tactics of fire and re-hire of the workforce have no place whatsoever in this city region. I don’t believe they should ever be used in any industrial dispute. I do not believe that the way in which this has been handled by Go is right.”

Andy Burnham did intervene a few weeks ago, to get both sides to a non-binding arbitration meeting but that failed and the strike is now as strong as ever, with more and more high profile figures appearing on the picket line and speaking up in support.

“I’m making it clear that I personally do not want to see these tactics used” he added, referring to ‘fire and re-hire’. “I do not believe the Go North West drivers have been treated fairly. I do believe they deserve more support. 

“The changes we are bringing to the buses does not allow a race to the bottom but the opposite actually,” he concluded.  

By Salford Star, originally published on 8 April 2021 here

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