Express & Star

Bus strike back on after National Express accused of 'union busting'

National Express bus drivers in the West Midlands will begin continuous strike action on Monday in a row over pay, union bosses have announced.

A National Express bus in Colmore Row, Birmingham. Photo: Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

Unite the Union claims National Express refused to allow drivers to vote on its latest offer during meetings at their depots.

Industrial action had been scheduled to begin on Thursday, involving more than 3,000 bus drivers, but was temporarily called off after an improved pay offer.

But Unite has announced that the strike is now back on.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our members at National Express – attempts at union busting by the company will not change that.

"They will receive Unite’s complete and utter support during these strikes for a fair pay rise.”

National Express’ operating profits, released recently, 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 said it had offered its workers in the West Midlands a "real terms pay cut".

Unite lead national officer Onay Kasab said: “Unite had agreed to put the offer to our members in a democratic vote.

"But National Express’ interference in our democratic processes, by refusing to allow a depot-based ballot, now mean that the offer cannot be voted on and action will go ahead on Monday.

"Moreover, the deal has more strings attached than a grand piano. If the company wants Unite to recommend a deal, then it needs to table an offer we know our members will accept. The company can more than afford to do that.”

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “This is an outrageous and calculating misrepresentation of what has happened.

"We have been calling for a vote all along and people can see our previous comments on that. We want our drivers to have a chance to make up their own minds on our improved offer.

“We improved our offer to 14.3 per cent on the base rate in year one and we added certainty – at Unite’s request – for years two and three at 3.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent.

"Not only that but we were willing to give an inflation guarantee so that if inflation was above either four per cent in year two or three per cent in year three, we’d have reopened the negotiations. Unite’s right hand clearly doesn’t know what its left hand is doing.

“The real victims in this whole scenario will be the people of the West Midlands who just want to go about their daily lives and not have to contend with the disruption and chaos that this strike will bring.

"To them, we say we are sincerely sorry and we are doing all we can to avoid this happening.

“We believe drivers should have their say in a free and fair way.

"We believe in a democratic process and support a confidential ballot. Why are Unite so scared of democracy? Let our people have their say.”