Express & Star

Striking bus driver explains walkout saying colleagues are 'fed up' with treatment

A bus driver taking part in next week's strike action says many of his colleagues feel "fed up" with the way they are being treated.

Last updated
National Express West Midlands bus drives begin their strike on Monday

The National Express West Midlands driver, spoke to the Express & Star after 71 per cent of drivers in the Unite union rejected the bus operator's offer of a 14.3 per cent pay rise on Saturday.

In a damning critique of the company's bosses, they said drivers are united over the issue.

"Drivers are in solidarity with the result," said the driver, who wished to remain anonymous.

"Many are fed up with how National Express West Midlands does not give them the recognition they feel they deserve, with regards to pay and all the grief they get daily just doing their job – and how (the company) has badly handed the negotiations.

"They strongly feel they are worth more than is being offered, they want a bit more but are not greedy at all. As well, it is about finally having the chance to legally stand up for themselves, because they are in a union they can do so in a way that doesn't mean they face a disciplinary for doing so."

More than 3,100 members of the Unite union will wall out on Monday for indefinite strike action which will continue until the situation is resolved.

As a result, around 93 per cent of the bus network in the region will be decimated, with services running on just a handful of National Express West Midlands routes. Other operators are not affected by the dispute.

Speaking after the result, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "National Express is an extremely wealthy company and makes considerable profits from the hard work of our members, who are not paid enough for the difficult and stressful job they do. The company must come back with an offer our members can accept."

Union chiefs highlighted reported revenues by National Express, which runs bus and coach services, which increased by 29 per cent to £2.8 billion whilst underlying profits more than doubled to £197.3 million.

In response, the bus company said the rejected offer included a 14.3 per cent pay increase, along with increases to Christmas and New Year's pay and accident pay. It 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.

A spokeswoman for National Express said: “We are sorry for the disruption that this will cause across the West Midlands. Our advice to customers is not to try to travel on our buses unless you really need to. As the week goes on, we hope to add back in more services so please check our website for the latest information.

“We are working with our partners to minimise the impact of the disruption in any way we can and we are seeking to bring a speedy resolution to the strike.”

On Friday evening, National Express chiefs said engineers had voted to accept the new offer of a 14.3 per cent base pay increase along with another 3.5 per cent rise next year. In 2024, should the consumer price index (CPI) reach four per cent or above in December 2023 the company will reopen negotiations with unions.