All National Express bus services in and around Birmingham to stop as over 3,300 staff strike over pay

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All out strikes planned for National Express buses in Birmingham and the West Midlands over pay dispute, unions have confirmed

More than 3,000 National Express West Midlands bus drivers have voted overwhelmingly to strike over pay, Unite, the union, said today (Thursday, March 2).

The workers, who voted by 96 per cent for industrial action, will begin all out continuous strike action on Thursday 16 March. They will be joined by over 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.

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The Union pointed out that National Express’ operating profits, released today, have more than doubled compared to the previous year. The company reported revenue increased by 29 per cent to £2.8 billion. Its underlying operating profits more than doubled to £197.3 million, fuelled by an increase in passenger demand across the group.

Despite this, the union claims that 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. Some drivers earn as little as £11.80 per hour.

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

With the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 13.4 per cent, the offers constitute a pay cut. The situation has been made worse by the below industry standard wages paid by the company.

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But National Express said their offer would mean the majority of their drivers were earning more than £30,000 - and that it was the equivalent of a 19% pay rise. They explained that they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision to strike. You can see the company’s full statement below.

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

National Express buses in action in Colmore Row, Birmingham. National Express buses in action in Colmore Row, Birmingham.
National Express buses in action in Colmore Row, Birmingham. | Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

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.”

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.”

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Birmingham bus stopBirmingham bus stop
Birmingham bus stop | Transport for West Midlands

What has National Express said about the decision by staff to strike on March 16?

Following the announcement from Unite the Union 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. How many people reading this can say they’ve been offered a 19% pay rise in a year?

“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, playing with people’s lives without giving drivers a vote on it.

“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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