BUS USERS across Solihull will be among those affected as National Express West Midlands bus drivers start an indefinite strike from today (Monday, March 20).
Commuters, students, schoolchildren, shoppers, people needing to get to hospital and medical appointments and others could struggle getting to where they need to be.
The latest deal – put to more than 3,1000 bus drivers – was voted down by 71 per cent.
The ‘all out indefinite’ industrial action began at midnight.
The operator said a limited service, primarily serving the region’s major hospitals, would operate.
But it urged people to only use the services which were running ‘if it was absolutely necessary’.
Bus users wanting to know which services will be affected can find out all they need to know here from the National Express West Midlands website.
What the union is saying about the industrial action
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.
“Unite’s top priority is defending and improving our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and National Express’ workforce have their union’s full support during these strikes.”
The union says between 2018 and 2021, average pay at National Express for West Midlands’ bus workers fell by six per cent in real terms with the gap increasing even further in 2022, because of rocketing prices.
It added, over the last 10 years, National Express paid its CEO an average annual salary of £2.6million and, earlier this month, the company boasted to the Stock Exchange that last year revenues increased 29 per cent to £2.8billion, with operating profits more than doubling to almost £200million.
Unite said a National Express bus driver’s starting salary was £11.80 an hour, progressing to just over £14 after three years of service. Meanwhile Abellio workers in London are paid £18 an hour after two years of service, which more closely reflects the difficulties and pressures that come with the job.
Due to low pay, Unite added, National Express has a shortage of around 300 drivers, which is impacting regular services and resulting in buses that should be on the road being stranded in depots.
National Express West Midlands’ response
A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands 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.”
NXWM said drivers rejected the improved offer of a 14.3 per cent pay increase along with increases to Christmas and New Year’s pay and accident pay.
It added the package would have brought an experienced driver salary up to nearly £33k, and unlocked more than £900 of back pay for a full time driver.
An open letter from NXWM Managing Director David Bradford
I’m disappointed to say that our drivers have rejected our 14.3% pay offer and that means there will be a strike starting on Monday 20th March, with some late buses on Sunday 19th March affected. Sadly we don’t know how long the strike will last.
I am sorry for the disruption this is going to cause. Services will be very limited and, our advice is to avoid travel by National Express bus if possible, and check our website for live updates on which routes are running.
We are promising three things:
Our goal is to run as many buses as we can. We care deeply about our customers and will prioritise routes that serve hospitals and build up what we can above that. We know a lot of drivers didn’t vote to strike, don’t want to strike, and are planning to come to work as usual. We don’t yet know how many buses and routes this will mean we can run, and things will change at short notice.
We will provide regular updates on our website and social media about which services are operating and to what timetable.
We commit to communicate openly and honestly about what is running, as things change.
We will of course refund the cost of your bus ticket if you can’t travel. There will be a form on our website from 20th March.
We remain committed to resolving this as quickly as possible. Please know that serving our customers is uppermost in our minds.