Wife of bus driver involved in strike action says workers have been left 'exhausted, stressed and harassed'

The wife of a Wolverhampton bus driver involved in strike action in the region says workers have been pushed to their limit after being left "exhausted, stressed and harassed".

National Express strikers in West Bromwich
National Express strikers in West Bromwich

More than 3,100 bus drivers at National Express West Midlands began continuous industrial action on Monday, after the majority rejected a 14.3 per cent pay rise offer in a ballot by union Unite.

The 'indefinite' strike action is expected to continue until the situation is resolved.

There have been picket lines outside National Express garages in the Black Country, including in Wolverhampton, Walsall, West Bromwich and Kingswinford.

Strikers in Kingswinford

The wife of one driver involved in the dispute, who does not want to be named, said workers only want a "reasonable" wage which reflects the tough conditions they have to face.

She added: "Drivers on some routes have to take their breaks sitting in a bus shelter as they have no facilities available to them, including access to toilets.

"Imagine eating your lunch sat in a bus shelter in the snow. Imagine your first day at work and a spit kit is included in your uniform.

"These drivers don’t want to be on strike. But they go out day after day with buses that often have radios that don’t work, or if they do work then no-one answers them so they are completely on their own.

"They get abuse because there are buses missing, and buses running late, but people don’t stop to think that the driver is also stuck on that bus, running into their breaks so that they become non existent.

"Or finishing work an hour late and then there is no-one to take over because so many drivers have had enough and left. So then they have to take that bus back to garage, making them even later.

"Their holidays are set. They have no say in the matter.

"Every day people trust the safety of their loved ones to these drivers without a second thought. But these drivers are exhausted, stressed and harassed. That’s not ideal for anyone."

Unite has also accused the bus operator of "threatening striking workers with job losses and route closures".

National Express is currently running a 'skeleton service', with the vast majority of its services across the region not running.

The union said the bus operator's offer was a 'real terms pay cut' while the company makes considerable profits.

A National Express West Midlands spokesperson said: “We have been in dialogue with the union and will continue to speak with them with the aim of getting this resolved as quickly as possible.

“Our compelling offer of a 14.3 per cent increase to pay along with increases in Christmas and New Year pay, and accident pay, remains on the table. This offer would take a typical driver - three out of four of all of our drivers - to £16.46 per hour, which works out around £33,000 full time.

“We are very sorry to our customers for the disruption the strike is causing. We are adding more services back all the time so please do keep an eye on our website for the latest information.”

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