A strike by more than 3,000 National Express bus drivers from the West Midlands will be initiated on March 16, coinciding with the next RMT train strike over payment.

The members of the United Union held a vote with a turnout of 72%, and 96% voted in favor of industrial action.

The union stated that the worker will go on an “all-out continuous” strike action on Thursday, March 16, along with industrial action, and will continue until the matter is resolved.

Additional 200 engineers at the company who voted in favor of industrial action over pay in January will join the National Express, bringing the total number of workers striking to 3,300.

After rejecting pay offers from the train operators and Network Rail, the RMT union members will be staging a one-day strike on Thursday, March 16. Furthermore, on the same day, university lecturers from more than 150 universities and school teachers across Wales and England are also planning to go on strike.

Concerned over the discomfort that would be experienced by the customers, National Express apologized for the “significant disruption” that would be experienced due to the strike and conveyed that they would try to resolve and avoid industrial action. A “very limited service” is expected to operate on the day of the strike, and customers would be notified through their website.

The National Express, after releasing its annual results on Thursday, stated that strikes benefited other public transport services, as many switched to and relied on other transport services in 2022.

Due to COVID restrictions, travel plummeted, and the company’s underlying pre-tax profit increased to £146 million from £40 million. With a total of £2.8 billion, revenues increased by 29%.

The National Express had cut the cost of a single ticket to £2 for adults and £1 for children until March 31 as part of the government’s “Help for Households Scheme.”

United stated that National Express was offering a real-term pay cut to its workers in the West Midlands, despite an increase in their profits. With a rise in pay to £14.40 an hour from £11.80 an hour after three years while doing “an incredibly stressful job.”

The union’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, expressed: “National Express is sitting on mountains of cash and can absolutely afford to give a pay rise to its staff that reflects rocketing living costs. It needs to do just that.”

93% of the West Midlands bus network, including in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, Dudley, and West Bromwich, is covered by National Express services, which are expected to be significantly disrupted by the strikes.

National Express stated, “This is an extremely disappointing result. Since the ballot, we have offered the union a pay deal for drivers worth 13.4%, made up of 11.1% for 2023, and a retention payment worth 2.3%. This is on top of the 6% our drivers received in November. This will see the majority of drivers earn over £30,000.”

“The union has turned it down without even giving our drivers a chance to vote on it. Only 60% of drivers voted in favor of industrial action on an out-of-date offer of 8.1%.”

Unite’s regional officer Sulinder Singh remarked: “National Express’s greed is the reason why the entire West Midlands bus network will be shut down, and it bears the responsibility for the disruption that will be caused. Our members do not want to strike, but National Express has left them with no choice. The company needs to put forward an offer that our members can accept—it can clearly afford to.”

- Published By Team Nation Press News

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