Almost 3,500 bus drivers and engineers employed by National Express across the West Midlands are set to strike indefinitely from Thursday.
Between 2018 and 2021, the workers’ average pay fell 6 percent in real terms. This fall increased in 2022 as prices rose steeply. But as workers suffer, National Express paid its chief executive a salary of £2.6 million a year over the same period. And the company’s revenue rose by almost a third to £2.8 billion.
National Express driver Ian told Socialist Worker, “We’re paid well below the standard. Lots of drivers have left and a lot want to leave for higher paid jobs on other services or HGVs, for example. We are demanding a pay rise above inflation.”
Some drivers are paid as little as £11.80 an hour, rising to £14.40 an hour after three years.
The indefinite action and strong will of workers has the bosses scared. The company is trying to break the strikes. The workers’ Unite union accuses National Express of trying to intimidate workers.
It says they have pulled people into one-to-one meetings, sent text messages demanding to know if they will strike, and threatened job losses and garage closures if strikes continue.
Ian added that National Express is deliberately trying to mislead both workers and the public. He said, “They claim they offered us 13 percent, but they really offered us just over 11 percent.”
The company has only offered drivers 11.1 percent plus a one-off payment of £630—a deal rightly refused as it’s a real terms pay cut.
Ian said, “We returned a really strong yes vote and everyone is supportive of indefinite action. Pickets could be big—we’ve all been discussing it.”
Indefinite action has proven to be a winning strategy for bus workers. Some 250 bus workers employed by Stagecoach in Hull won an above-inflation, 21.4 percent pay rise by combining indefinite action with mass picket lines, marches and rallies.
But the strategy can fall short if action is suspended for talks or insufficient pay offers.
Ian is a pseudonym
The main National Express picket locations are:
Coventry: 2 Ford Street, CV1 5WT
Pensnett: Building 35, Second Avenue, Pensnett Trading Estate, Kingswinford, DY6 7UH
Walsall: Carl Street, Walsall, WS2 7BE
West Bromwich: Oak Lane, West Bromwich, B70 8PP
Wolverhampton: Park Lane, Wolverhampton, WV10 9QG Yardley Wood: Yardley Wood Road, Birmingham, B14 4BN
Acocks Green: Fox Hollies Road, Acocks Green, Birmingham, B27 7TZ
Birmingham: Liverpool Street, Birmingham, B9 4DS
Perry Barr: 157 Aston Lane, Handsworth, Birmingham, B20 3BWOriginal post