National Express Strike Begins!

There was an incredible display of workers power on Monday 20th March, as 3100 bus drivers at National Express West Midlands began all-out strike action for a living pay increase after years of declining real wages.

The strike follows management attempting to tie workers down to a three year deal on pay, while employing underhand tactics including attaching leaflets to duty cards recommending acceptance of the deal in the snap ballot organised by Unite the union last week.

The rock solid support for the strike was shown in the mass pickets from 3am onwards at garages around Brum. Socialist Party members report that, despite the company’s attempts to run a skeleton service, at most locations the number of buses that left could be counted on one hand

In a desperate move, managers at Birmingham Central called the police to try and disperse the 40 strong picket there. Drivers were quick to point out the irony of being unable to get backup to deal with violent and antisocial passengers while at work, but having three riot vans called to stop union members enforcing the strike! Meanwhile at Perry Barr pickets were stood stationery in front of the gate as management tried to guide a bus slowly out of the garage. The bus nudged the picket so the bus was stopped and reversed back into the garage.

One driver at Birmingham Central summed up the mood as being "undervalued, underpaid, overworked and underappreciated". To underscore the point, one of the drivers showed us his four licences each for different vehicle classes and described it as insulting that some describe his job as being low skilled.

Talk also turned to the conditions of the job. One worker at Yardley Wood said “It's not even about the money, it's the amount of time we're in the saddle. You're lucky if you get a break for a coffee” while their workmate added that there's drivers going through divorces thanks to the pressure of the job and the amount of time they spend in work!

We heard how drivers don’t get access to proper toilet facilities while away from the depot - in other countries like Denmark, bus companies have to provide these by law. This is despite the fact that unpaid breaks of up to four hours during the day are common, with 11 hours between the start and end of duty.

Drivers at Acocks Green enthusiastically received the second edition of the Socialist Party’s strike bulletin, and agreed with the demand for a 24 hour general strike to win a living pay rise for all workers currently in struggle against the rising cost of living.

At the time of writing, Unite members at National Express West Midlands are set to stay on strike continuously until a satisfactory deal is reached. By taking one day of action, bus drivers have succeeded in emptying out a number of town and city centres around the region, showing their vital role in keeping the local services and businesses running.

Time for these essential workers to be paid a living wage, as a step towards fully funded, free to use and massively expanded public transport for all.

Written by workers for workers.

The media never covers the real struggles of the working class. Instead they spread lies and misinformation. That's why we have our own newpaper and email list.

Join our email list to keep up with the latest socialist news. We share the protests, strikes, and meetings happening near you.
We are a branch of the Socialist Party, the English and Welsh section of the Committee for a Workers' International - a worldwide revolutionary socialist organisation with parties and groups in countries across the globe.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram