National Express staff to strike over pay

More than 3,000 National Express West Midlands bus drivers have voted to strike over pay.

The workers, who voted by 96% for industrial action, will begin all out continuous strike action on Thursday 16 March.

They will be joined by more than 200 National Express engineers who voted for industrial action over pay in January, bringing the total number of striking workers to more than 3,300.

National Express’ operating profits, released today, have more than doubled compared to the previous year. The company reported revenue increased by 29% to £2.8bn. Its underlying operating profits more than doubled to £197.3m, fuelled by an increase in passenger demand across the group.

But union Unite said National Express has offered all of its workers in the West Midlands, where it holds a monopoly on local bus services, a real terms pay cut. It says some drivers earn “as little as £11.80 per hour”.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “National Express is sitting on mountains of cash and can absolutely afford to give a pay rise to its staff that reflects rocketing living costs. It needs to do just that. Unite defends our members jobs, pay and conditions to the hilt and the National Express workforce has their union’s total and unflinching support during these strikes.”

National Express had claimed it offered drivers a 14% rise, but Unite says the deal was in fact worth just eight per cent. Drivers have since been offered 11.1% on basic pay, while engineers have been offered 11.5%.

The strikes will severely impact National Express West Midlands’ services, which cover 93% of the region’s bus network, including in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, Dudley and West Bromwich.

Unite regional officer Sulinder Singh said: “National Express’ greed is the reason why the entire West Midland’s bus network will be shut down and it bears the responsibility for the disruption that will be caused. Our members do not want to strike but National Express has left them with no choice. The company needs to put forward an offer that our members can accept – it can clearly afford to.”

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “This is an extremely disappointing result. Since the ballot, we have offered the union a pay deal for drivers worth 13.4% made up of 11.1% for 2023 and a retention payment worth 2.3%. This is on top of 6% our drivers received in November. This will see the majority of drivers earn over £30,000.

“The union has turned it down without even giving our drivers a chance to vote on it. Only 60% of drivers voted in favour of industrial action on an out-of-date offer of 8.1% and yet multi-million pound union Unite would see their members out of pocket and the lives of the people of the West Midlands disrupted to score political points. The union is using our hard-working drivers as bargaining chips.

“We sincerely apologise to our customers for the significant disruption that Unite will cause and we are continuing to talk to them to seek to avoid strikes. We anticipate a very limited service running on strike days and customers can keep updated via our website We urge our drivers to stand up to the union, reconsider industrial action and keep the West Midlands moving.”

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