All out indefinite strike action by more than 3,100 National Express West Midland’s bus drivers will begin at 00:01 hrs on Monday 20 March.
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The workers voted by 71 per cent against a deal put forward by the company in a ballot held over Friday and Saturday.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “National Express is an extremely wealthy company and makes considerable profits from the hard work of our members, who are not paid enough for the difficult and stressful job they do. The company must come back with an offer our members can accept.
“Unite’s top priority is defending and improving our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and National Express’ workforce have their union’s full support during these strikes.”
Between 2018 and 2021, average pay at National Express for West Midlands’ bus workers fell by six per cent in real terms with the gap increasing even further in 2022, because of rocketing prices.
Meanwhile, over the last 10 years, National Express paid its CEO an average annual salary of £2.6 million. 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.
A National Express bus driver’s starting salary begins at just £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.
Due to low pay, National Express has a shortage of around 300 drivers, which is impacting regular services and resulting in buses that should be on the road being stranded in depots.
Unite lead national officer Onay Kasab said: “National Express have said time and again that Unite has not allowed our members a proper say on the pay deals they have put forward. The company’s arguments have now been exposed as hot air. The truth is this: National Express drivers have had enough.
“Our members are clear the offer needs to improve to reflect rising prices and the incredibly hard job they do. This will also benefit West Midlands bus services as it will help solve National Express’ recruitment and retention problems.” ■