Improved pay offer made with hopes to end National Express bus strike

National Express West Midlands has improved its offer to Unite the union, in an effort to end an already five-day long bus strike.

More than 3,100 National Express West Midlands bus drivers will vote tomorrow and Saturday on the 16.2% pay increase offer, as well as plans to formalise existing interim overtime rates, increasing Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day pay and accident pay. 

Strike action will continue while the ballot is held, with the results known on Saturday. 

The transport operator had previously offered a 14.3% pay increase, along with increases to Christmas Eve pay, New Year’s Day pay and accident pay. That offer was rejected by drivers in a ballot and led to strikes, which began on March 20 (Monday).

A National Express West Midlands spokesperson said: “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Unite that is going to be fully recommended to its members and will be balloted on Friday and Saturday. 

“Subject to a positive ballot, we are intending to operate a reduced service from Sunday 26 March and a normal service from Monday 27 March. We are very sorry to customers for the disruption this week.”

The spokesperson added: “This is a very fair and decent offer – among the best pay rises of any sector, anywhere in the country. We encourage all our drivers to accept the offer and get the West Midlands moving again.”

Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said: “Following negotiations today, National Express put forward an improved pay offer which will be put to our members in a vote over the next two days. Unite will be making no further comments during the ballot period.”

Unite says that between 2018 and 2021, average pay at National Express for West Midlands’ bus workers fell by 6% in real terms with the gap increasing even further, in 2022, because of rocketing prices.

Meanwhile, over the last 10 years, National Express paid its CEO an average annual salary of £2.6m. Earlier this month, the company revealed evenues had increased 29% to £2.8bn, with operating profits more than doubling to touching £200m. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said on March 18 that: “National Express is an extremely wealthy company and makes considerable profits from the hard work of our members, who are not paid enough for the difficult and stressful job they do. The company must come back with an offer our members can accept”.