Birmingham bus strike: National Express drivers to walk out indefinitely

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Unite the Union claimed that National Express West Midlands management was “angering workers with strike breaking tactics” when “only an improved pay offer can avoid strikes”

A National Express drivers union announced that they would be going on strike from March 16 in Birmingham. Some 3,000 drivers with the bus service in and around Birmingham voted in favour of the industrial action. They will be joined by over 200 National Express engineers.

A Unite the Union spokesperson said the strike is beginning on March 16 - with no end in sight until an appropriate pay offer is agreed. Meaning bus users are being left without services across the West Midlands indefinitely.

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Unite said it made the decision to strike indefinitely after talks with National Express West Midlands broke down on Monday - failing to find a deal that the union could recommend to its members.

A Unite spokesperson told BirminghamWorld: “The strike start on 16 March but are indefinite all out - meaning they will continue everyday until an acceptable pay offer is put forward.”

But National Express West Midlands claims drivers pay will increase by 19% over the year. According to the company, this includes a latest offer of 13.4%, on top of a 6% pay deal in November.

National Express West Midlands. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix LtdNational Express West Midlands. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd
National Express West Midlands. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

What Unite the Union says about National Express’ pay offer to West Midlands bus drivers and staff

Unite refutes these claims saying: “The company have offered drivers 11.1 % plus a one-off payment of £630. Moreover, the company’s claims of a six per cent pay deal in November are also incorrect.

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“The November agreement addressed issues around work schedules and terms and conditions – any subsequent increase in pay from November was a result of workers being paid properly due to issues being corrected.

“National Express also claims that Unite is refusing to put its latest offer to members in a vote. A very clear mandate has been given by the workforce during consultations with members and their workplace reps on the minimum that would be accepted. National Express’ latest offer does not reach that minimum and would be rejected.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “National Express’ disgraceful campaign of bullying and union-busting has only strengthened our members’ determination to win a fair pay deal. Attempting to strike break will just make matters worse for the company.

“The workers voted overwhelmingly to take strike action because they know this extremely wealthy company has undoubtedly got more than enough money to afford a decent wage increase. There is only one solution: National Express must put forward an offer that our members can accept.”

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The union pointed out that over the last 10 years, National Express paid its CEO an average annual salary of £2.6 million. Last week, the company said that last year revenues had increased 29 % to £2.8 billion, with operating profits more than doubling to touching £200 million.

National Express buses to go on strike from March 16 (Photo - Vivek Deshpande)National Express buses to go on strike from March 16 (Photo - Vivek Deshpande)
National Express buses to go on strike from March 16 (Photo - Vivek Deshpande)

What National Express said

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “We absolutely refute those claims but we are entirely unsurprised by Unite’s tactics - they will try every trick in the book to scare our people into going on strike.

“The facts remain - we’ve made a very fair and decent offer of 13.4%, made up of 11.1% increase on the base rate and a no-strings upfront lump sum of £630 which works out at 2.3%.

“If you asked most people if they’d like that, they’d bite your hand off for it, and Unite won’t even let our drivers vote on it. We are sincerely sorry to our customers, who will end up being the ones inconvenienced, because Unite won’t even do the democratic thing and take a decent offer to their members.”

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