Nearly 4,000 Birmingham bus workers at National Express West Midlands are expected to vote for industrial action.
The coming days will see more than 3,000 bus drivers and over 250 office staff begin balloting for a strike over pay. If they vote in favour of strikes, they will join around 200 National Express engineers who are also ready to take industrial action following a successful strike ballot.
The ballot for strike action opens on February 8 and closes March 1. The strikes are expected to begin in March. Unions say any strikes would severely impact National Express West Midlands’ services, which cover 93 % of the region’s bus network, including in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry.
Unite regional officer Sulinder Singh said: “The disruption to passengers across the region would be immense and entirely the fault of National Express’ greed. It needs to put forward a pay rise our members can accept – it is certainly has the resources to do so.”
The union said that National Express claimed it has offered drivers a 14% rise, but it is worth just 8%. Admin staff have been offered nothing and the engineers have been offered 10 % . With the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 13.4 % , all the offers constitute a pay cut.
Some drivers earn as little as £11.80 per hour, while the majority of admin staff make little more than the minimum wage. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:“National Express brings in huge amounts of money while its workers are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. It can afford to pay for a decent wage for its workers and that is exactly what it needs to do.
“Unite defends our members’ jobs, pay and conditions to the hilt and National Express West Midlands’ workforce have the union’s complete support as they fight for a fair pay rise.”
National Express reported revenues of £2.2 billion and EBITDA (used to measure profitability) of £300 million in 2021. Meanwhile, teachers, university workers, and others have joined hands today (February 1) to hold a rally in Birmingham’s Centenary Square against inadequate pay.