West Midlands Metro announces reduced tram operation on first four strike days this month

West Midlands Metro bosses have confirmed reduced tram services will run during the first four days of strike action later this month.

There will be tram services up to every 15 minutes, but not calling at all stations
There will be tram services up to every 15 minutes, but not calling at all stations

Services have now been confirmed for October 15, 18, 20 and 22, while arrangements have not yet been made for the following 49 strike dates taking place between October and January.

However, on these four strike dates, trams will only run between Wolverhampton St George's and Bull Street.

This means passengers will be unable to get on or off at stops like Grand Central, for Birmingham New Street, or Library, for Centenary Square. It also means the service will not run on the newly completed extension to Edgbaston.

On Saturdays, October 15 and October 22, trams will run every 15 minutes between Wolverhampton St George's and Bull Street in Birmingham from 8.30am until the last departures at 5pm.

On Tuesday, October 18, and Thursday, October 20, a 15-minute service will also be in operation between Wolverhampton and Bull Street, starting at 7.30am with the final departures of the day at 6pm.

While it is not yet known what services will look like on the strike dates following these, Metro bosses say they "will be doing everything possible to operate the very best service that we can".

A spokesman for West Midlands Metro said: "The union, Unite, has notified us that their members intend to take industrial action from Saturday 15 October.

"On the impending strike days, we will be doing everything possible to operate the very best service that we can.

"Having finalised plans for the first four dates, we have been able to minimise the impact on the majority of journeys."

The Metro spokesperson added: "Some earlier and later trams will be available on parts of the route as trams leave and return to the depot at Wednesbury Parkway. Customers are advised to check the timetable for full details.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience that these changes will have on our customers travel arrangements.

"Midland Metro Limited values our colleagues and their contribution to delivering a safe and secure, reliable and sustainable service to the communities that we serve, naturally we are disappointed by this decision, despite our extensive efforts to reach an amicable agreement.

"More information regarding future days of action will be shared as the situation progresses. The most up to date information will be available on our website or Twitter page."

The countdown is on until union members walk out over alleged "poverty wages" next Saturday.

It comes after a disastrous year for West Midlands Metro, with tram services halted on three separate occasions in just nine months due to cracks in the trams.

Now, Unite members have almost unanimously voted to strike, with the action having a particular impact on the run-up to Christmas.

Unite represents over 176 workers on the West Midlands Metro and recorded a yes vote of 86 per cent on an 84 per cent turnout.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is disgraceful that despite our members undertaking extremely demanding and responsible jobs and ensuring that Birmingham and the Black Country keeps moving, they are paid poverty wages.

“Unite always fights tooth and nail for its members as it ensures that their jobs, pay and conditions are defended and enhanced. Our members at Midlands Metro will receive the union’s unswerving support.”

A West Midlands Metro spokesman said: "A fair pay offer, including an increase of more than 15 per cent – or more than £3,300 a year – for tram crew with a full year’s service, remains on the table.

"These proposals also include an increase for tram crew in their first year, bringing these salaries into line with those on similar-sized tram systems in the UK, and a significant pay rise for other colleagues across the network."

The workers are seeking a minimum pay rate of £27,000 for tram drivers/customer representatives and a £5,000 increase for all other grades, which can start at £21,537.

The tram drivers/customer representatives are currently paid £21,939, which Unite claims is one of the lowest rates in the UK for this kind of role.

Workers rejected a proposal of £25,250 for drivers/customer representatives and a 5.25 per cent increase for all other grades.

A Metro worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Express & Star: "It's very important the strike must take place, because the staff at the Metro have been underpaid for years - if not decades.

"And now with cost of living going through the roof, the need for much better pay is desperately needed more than ever.

"None of the staff want to impact customers and their lives but they must understand, we get paid awfully for the job we do - the early starts, the late nights, the lack of time we get with our families, and we are not are paid for any of that.

"And the hours and shifts have just got worse with the new extension up Broad Street."

The full list of strike dates

October - 15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 29, 31

November - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, 30.

December - 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.

January - 1, 2, 5.

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