Indefinite strike by bus drivers to go ahead in pay row

An indefinite strike by thousands of National Express drivers is back on after a fresh row over pay.

Around 3,200 members of Unite based in the West Midlands will walk out from next Monday, which the union said will hit most of the company’s services.

Industrial action had been suspended, but Unite said National Express West Midlands, which operates local services, had refused to allow drivers to vote on its latest offer during meetings at their depots.

The union said it was was willing to put the offer to a vote, even though it is likely to be rejected because it ties workers into a three-year pay deal.

Unite has recommended rejection of the deal because it has “more strings attached than a grand piano”.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite stands shoulder to shoulder with our members at National Express – attempts at union-busting by the company will not change that. They will receive Unite’s complete and utter support during these strikes for a fair pay rise.”

Unite national officer Onay Kasab said: “Unite had agreed to put the offer to our members in a democratic vote, but National Express’ interference in our democratic processes, by refusing to allow a depot-based ballot, now means that the offer cannot be voted on and action will go ahead on Monday.”

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said: “This is an outrageous and calculating misrepresentation of what has happened. We have been calling for a vote all along and people can see our previous comments on that. We want our drivers to have a chance to make up their own minds on our improved offer.

“We improved our offer to 14.3% on the base rate in year one and we added certainty – at Unite’s request – for years two and three at 3.5% and 2.2%. Not only that but we were willing to give an Inflation Guarantee so that if inflation was above either 4% in year two or 3% in year three, we’d have re-opened the negotiations. Unite’s right hand clearly doesn’t know what its left hand is doing.

“The real victims in this whole scenario will be the people of the West Midlands who just want to go about their daily lives and not have to contend with the disruption and chaos that this strike will bring. To them, we say we are sincerely sorry and we are doing all we can to avoid this happening.

“We believe drivers should have their say in a free and fair way. We believe in a democratic process and support a confidential ballot. Why are Unite so scared of democracy? Let our people have their say.”