Birmingham bus strike: how much do National Express bus drivers get paid?

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National Express bus drivers are staging an indefinite strike in Birmingham

Bus drivers at National Express West Midlands began an indefinite strike on Monday (March 20) with 3,100 walking out. But this was called off on Saturday after bus drivers accepted a new pay deal.

A skeleton bus service operated - mainly to hospitals - during the walk out causing chaos for workers and schools across Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. A normal service is expected to run today (Monday, March 27) after Unite the Union members finished their ballot on Saturday (March 18).

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Why are bus drivers at National Express and other staff on strike and how much do they get paid?

Unite the Union called the strike action due to issues surrounding pay for its members. The union says that bus workers pay fell by six per cent in real terms between 2018 and 2021 - with the gap increasing even further in 2022 due to rocketing prices caused by the cost of living crisis.

Unite says National Express bus driver’s starting salary begins at £11.80 an hour, progressing to just over £14 after three years of service. Meanwhile Abellio workers in London are paid £18 an hour after two years of service, which more closely reflects the difficulties and pressures that come with the job. The new offer has seen these pay levels increase - full details are below.

The Union contrasted the pay of bus drivers with that paid to National Express, saying that - over the last 10 years - National Express paid its CEO an average annual salary of £2.6 million.

A Unite spokesperson added: “Earlier this month, the company boasted to the Stock Exchange that last year revenues increased 29 per cent to £2.8 billion, with operating profits more than doubling to almost £200 million.”

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What pressures do National Express bus drivers face at work?

One National Express driver said: I was punched in the face a couple of months ago. I lost a tooth. The majority of passengers are absolutely brilliant, but you get a lot of abuse out on the road – being spat at, things thrown at you. It happens all the time. Just basically for doing your job the best you can to get people where they need to go.”

Another National Express driver said: “I’ll be at work for 12 hours, drive nine of those but because of the way pay is worked out I’ll get wages for just seven and a half hours. It’s split shifts so I can start work at 4am one day and on another I’ll be finishing at 10pm. A lot of the time, I’m driving continuously for five and a half hours and there’s no access to a toilet. No wonder there’s always a shortage of drivers.”

Birmingham bus stopBirmingham bus stop
Birmingham bus stop

What has National Express West Midlands said about the pay issues and bus strike?

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “Drivers rejected the improved offer of a 14.3% pay increase along with increases to Christmas and New Year’s pay and accident pay. The package would have brought an experienced driver salary up to nearly £33k, and unlocked more than £900 of back pay for a full time driver.”

The spokesperson added: “We are sorry for the disruption that this will cause across the West Midlands. Our advice to customers is not to try to travel on our buses unless you really need to.

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“As the week goes on, we hope to add back in more services so please check our website for the latest information. We are working with our partners to minimise the impact of the disruption in any way we can and we are seeking to bring a speedy resolution to the strike.”

What pay offer have National Express West Midlands bus drivers accepted?

West Midlands bus strikes ended after a ballot of more 3,100 National Express drivers resulted in an improved offer being accepted,.

The offer includes a one-year 16.2 per cent pay increase and improvements to the drivers’ accident pay and hourly rates for working over the Christmas holidays.

National Express has also guaranteed to implement new terms and conditions that were agreed with Unite in November last year, a key sticking point in the dispute.

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More than 200 National Express engineers voted last week to accept a separate pay deal. Unite also ensured that around 250 admin staff will also benefit from this deal.

To find out which National Express bus services are running throughout the strike please go here: Buses running in Birmingham today

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