Express & Star

West Midlands bus strikes finally over as drivers vote to accept new pay deal

Bus strikes which have impacted almost the entire network in the West Midlands have been called off after a pay offer from transport chiefs was accepted.

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Walsall bus station

Drivers voted to accept National Express West Midlands' 16.2 per cent pay rise after the offer was put forward in a ballot over Thursday and Friday.

It means more than 3,100 members of the Unite union will go back to work after accepting the pay offer, with the bus operator calling it a "very fair and decent offer" and "among the best pay rises of any sector, anywhere in the country".

The offer includes a one-year 16.2 per cent pay increase and improvements to the drivers’ accident pay and hourly rates for working over the Christmas holidays.

National Express has also guaranteed to implement new terms and conditions that were agreed with Unite in November last year, a key sticking point in the dispute.

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands 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.”

The acceptance of the new pay offer ends the current continuous industrial action which has seen the majority of National Express West Midlands bus services ground to a halt, with a reduced service running on Sunday and as "close to normal as possible" from Monday.

The strikes have decimated public transport, hitting around 93 per cent of the bus network in Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, Birmingham and elsewhere.

A previous offer of a 14.3 per cent pay increase, along with increases to Christmas and New Year's pay and accident pay, was rejected a week ago, which would have brought an experienced driver salary up to almost £33,000 and "unlocked" more than £900 of back pay for a full-time driver.

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.”

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.”

Striking drivers were in defiant mood earlier this week: