Express & Star

West Midlands Mayor urges National Express and Unite to agree end to bus strikes

Andy Street has called for an urgent end to bus strikes that have caused misery for passengers across the region.

Last updated
Drumming up support - Mark Crump entertains the strikers at Pensnett Trading Estate, Kingswinford

Around 3,100 drivers went on an indefinite strike this week in a pay dispute that has left most of the West Midlands with no bus services.

In a major intervention in the row, West Midlands Mayor Mr Street said National Express and union bosses at Unite must swiftly come to an agreement "for the good of the people".

He said he had held talks with National Express and explained the "utter urgency" of ending the industrial action. The Mayor also called on Unite to explain why a "big increase" of 14.3 per cent had been rejected.

National Express said its offer included increases to Christmas and New Year pay and accident pay, and brought average salaries for drivers up to almost £33,000.

But Unite said the deal had "more strings attached than a grand piano" and urged the firm to come back with a better offer.

Mr Street told the Express & Star: "This action is causing disruption for hundreds of thousands of passengers each day, and they must be the priority.

"National Express and Unite need to sit down and come to an agreement for the good of the people of the West Midlands, many of whom are reliant on their bus services.

National Express strikers at the West Bromwich branch, Oak Lane, West Bromwich

"The headline pay increase offered by National Express of 14.3 per cent is a big increase compared with some of the pay offers we have seen in other industries.

"That is a lot of money to put on the table and I have sympathy for National Express. My question would be just what is it that has caused the union to reject it?

"Having met with National Express I have explained to them the utter urgency of getting this sorted out and I would say exactly the same to Unite."

National Express strikers at the Dudley branch, at Pensnett Trading Estate, Kingswinford..

Prospective Labour candidate for West Midlands Mayor, Richard Parker, joined fellow Unite members of the picket line on Monday.

He said: "National Express need to put their workforce first before profits with a proper increase for our bus drivers."

The strike is believed to have taken 93 per cent of the bus network off the roads, although firms including the Green Bus Company, Diamond Bus and Banga Bus are still running services.