Here are the plans for strikes and ballots for unions in our region.
Members of the RMT union and the Aslef union are striking again tomorrow over pay and working conditions, effectively wiping out Avanti West Coast and West Midland Railway services in the region. Transport for Wales workers are not striking.
Around 40,000 workers across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies staged 48-hour walk-outs at the start of the year. A pay deal has still not yet been reached so more walkouts are likely.
The Rail Delivery Group is offering a “landmark outline proposal” in exchange for a pay increase of four per cent for 2022 and four per cent for this year. The offer also included a commitment to no compulsory redundancies until at least March 31, 2024.
Network Rail has made a “newly revised” offer to the biggest rail workers’ union in a bid to break the strikes deadlock.
It said it has added some fresh proposals to the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). The union said it will consider the offer and consult members.
It comes as fresh strikes bring much of the rail network in the West Midlands to a halt, with action yesterday and tomorrow and disrupted services today. RMT and Aslef union members are involved in the strikes.
Tim Shoveller of National Rail (NR) said the company was continuing with its plans for modernising maintenance, adding: “We must press on with this regardless of the pay dispute. We believe it will help to create a safer, better railway and jobs. Local consultation is under way and is providing the local level detail people want.
He said new elements of the offer included an increase in London allowances for those who are currently on, or move onto, different contracts. He added: “We want to introduce a standard 35-hour working week for everyone. We’re now committing to work with unions to review contracts above a 35-hour week so we can agree a way forward. We’ll introduce a better long service award framework for general grades, which will be backdated to 2022. We’ll improve carers’ leave. If you are a registered carer, you will be able to transfer five days paid volunteering leave to five days paid carers’ leave.” said Mr Shoveller.
NR said it was offering a minimum uplift of a consolidated £1,750 or a 5 per cent increase (whichever is greater) up to a maximum uplift of £3,500 to the annual base rates of pay, with back pay from 1 January 2022, and a 4 per cent increase to the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2023.
Over the two years, this adds up to an increase of between 9.2 per cent to 14.4 per cent - more for those on the lowest salaries, said NR.
There was also a commitment to no compulsory redundancies until January 2025, a 75 per cent leisure travel discount for employees and their family, 75 per cent reduction on an employee’s season ticket, and an opportunity to sell 10 days of leave if any is carried over from 2022.
Apprentices will see a “big increase” to their pay, backdated to April 2022, said NR.
The union has held a series of strikes over the past few months in its dispute with NR, which is separate to the row with train operators.
The RMT dispute with NR is separate to the train drivers’ row with rail operators, which led to a strike on Wednesday.
The RMT represents signallers, maintenance staff and other workers at NR.
Thousands of workers at National Express West Midlands are to begin balloting for strike action in the coming days, closing on March 1.
Unite the Union will open the ballot to more than 3,000 bus drivers and over 250 office staff in a row over pay.
If the workers 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.
Union bosses said National Express reported huge profits in 2021, but has offered all of its workers in the West Midlands a "real terms 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 said.
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.”
The union says that although National Express claims it has offered drivers a 14 per cent rise, it is worth just eight per cent – which is below the rate of inflation.
Bosses said admin staff have been offered nothing at all and the engineers have been offered 10 per cent.
The ballot for strike action opens on February 8 and closes on March 1, with strikes likely to begin later that month if workers vote in favour.
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 certainly has the resources to do so.”
National Express West Midlands said engineers had been offered between a 10.5 per cent and 13.2 per cent increase, and it had agreed with Unite to delay the talks about admin staff until the drivers and engineers talks had been resolved.
A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “We have offered our drivers an increase of the average rate by 14 per cent - this is made up of around six per cent provided already in November 2022 and eight per cent additional that we would backdate to January 2023.
"Under this deal, around 75 per cent of drivers would earn more than £30,000 and we have promised no compulsory redundancies if they accept this offer.
“This is a fair and responsible offer. It is fair because it acknowledges that times are tough for everyone and it is responsible because it safeguards the long term interests of the communities we serve.
"We encourage our colleagues to vote to reject industrial action and keep the West Midlands moving.”
Ambulance workers in England and Wales are on strike on various dates until the end of March, including paramedics, drivers and call handlers. Patients might have to wait longer for 999 and 111 calls to be answered and, while life-threatening calls will be responded to, less urgent cases may not.
West Midlands Ambulance trust workers are set to strike on February 6, February 17, March 6 and March 20.
Nurses and junior doctors
Thousands of nurses will go on strike again next Monday and Tuesday, although the impact on our region is patchy as our main hospitals did not have enough voting in the ballot to get a mandate. The Royal College of Nursing is calling for a 19 per cent pay rise, which the government says is “unaffordable”.
About 45,000 junior doctors are being balloted on strike action, with a result set for the end of February. If they reach the 50 per cent ‘yes’ threshold then junior doctors – any doctor below consultant level – will begin a 72-hour “full walkout” in March.
Seven days of strikes are planned in England and Wales during February and March by the NEU. Around 100,000 teachers walked out yesterday. Members of the NASUWT union announced strike action on February 28 and March 1. Most state-school teachers in England and Wales have had a five per cent pay rise this year. The NASUWT is after a 12 per cent increase.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have recently decided to take industrial action after they rejected a below-inflation five per cent pay increase. The government and employers have been given until February 9 to improve the offer.
Royal Mail workers carried out six days of industrial action at Christmas. The Communication Workers’ Union says the latest pay offer of nine per cent over two years is below inflation. Talks are ongoing.