The National Express West Midlands bus strike started on Monday (March 2) and it has majorly affected travel in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. The strike has now been called off with bus drivers accepting a new pay offer following a ballot.
Crunch talks took place on Thursday (March 23) between Unite the Union members and the bus company, which operates 93% of bus services in the region, to resolve the bitter pay issue. National Express Subsequently made an improved offer to the bus drivers which was accpeted this afternoon (Saturday, March 25).
A spokesperson for the bus operator said: “Bus drivers at National Express West Midlands have voted in favour of the latest pay deal bringing an end to the strike from Sunday 26 March.
“The positive result concludes the pay dispute between National Express West Midlands and Unite. There will be a reduced service on Sunday and as close to normal as possible on Monday.”
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 indefinite strikes, which began on Monday 20 March.
The new offer sees a 16.2% pay increase, formalising existing interim overtime rates, increasing Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day pay and accident pay.
The company previously announced that the number of applications for bus drivers has increased three-fold since the strikes began. Some 3,100 Unite the Union members who are bus drivers at National Express West Midlands had walked out. The company ran a skeleton bus services - mainly along hospital routes - which was subject to delays and cancellations.
A total of 235 drivers came out to work on the first day of the strike, transporting customers on 56,000 journeys with over 90 buses serving customers all around the West Midlands.
Transport for West Midlands advised public transport users that services provided by alternative bus providers, such as Diamond, Arriva, and Stagecoach, as well as the X21 service, are operating as normal, but these are likely to be busier than usual.
A TfWM spokesperson said: “Bus travel accounts for approximately 80% of journeys by public transport and the overwhelming majority of those journeys are with National Express West Midlands.
“Therefore, this strike will have a significant impact on our network and it is disappointing for the many people who travel around our region every day that industrial action continues to affect them.”
How long will the strikes last?
The strike were being held indefinitely. Now that Unite the Union members have accepted the pay deal they will return to work. But National Express has warned that there will be a reduced service tomorrow (Sunday, March 26). But they expect a “close to normal service as possible” to resume on Monday. For the latest information on bus times check the National Express West Midlands website.
What Unite the Union said
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is an important win for Unite members. By standing together our members at National Express secured an above inflation pay offer.
“Unite will leave no stone unturned to defend workers’ pay. This is yet another example of how Unite’s relentless focus on improving jobs, pay and conditions results in real ‘money in the pockets’ of our members.”
More than 200 National Express engineers voted last week to accept a separate pay deal. Unite also ensured that around 250 admin staff are also included in this deal. Unite lead national officer Onay Kasab said: “We congratulate every one of our members for making this stand and winning. Unite will continue to work, through our Bus Combine, to win double digit pay increases for our members.”
What National Express West Midlands said
A National Express West Midlands spokesperson said “We are pleased that the drivers have voted in favour of accepting the offer. We apologise to our customers and the communities we serve for the significant disruption and inconvenience this has caused over the last few weeks. We are pleased to be able to put this behind us and focus on delivering a bus service that customers can rely on.”