UPDATE: Planned strike action has been postponed while drivers vote on a new pay offer. If this offer is rejected, the strike action will commence from Monday 20th March instead. Read more here…
In the last couple of days, it was confirmed by Unite The Union that its members employed by NX Bus will be beginning “continuous all-out” strike action from Thursday 16th March.
More than 3,000 National Express West Midlands bus drivers have voted overwhelmingly to strike over pay, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Thursday).
The workers, who voted by 96 per cent for industrial action, will begin all out continuous strike action on Thursday 16 March.
They will be joined by over 200 National Express engineers who voted for industrial action over pay in January, bringing the total number of striking workers to more than 3,300.
National Express’ operating profits, released today, have more than doubled compared to the previous year. The company reported revenue increased by 29 per cent to £2.8 billion. Its underlying operating profits more than doubled to £197.3 million, fuelled by an increase in passenger demand across the group.
Despite this, it has offered all of its workers in the West Midlands, where it holds a monopoly on local bus services, a real terms pay cut. Some drivers earn as little as £11.80 per hour.“Entire West Midlands bus network to shut as over 3,300 National Express staff strike over pay” – Unite The Union, 2nd March 2023
The strike action only impacts NX West Midlands and NX Coventry services, other bus operators’ services will continue to run as normal.
And as not all NX Bus drivers/engineers are Unite union members, the company will still be able to operate a limited number of service journeys.
Either way, the few buses that are running are likely to be VERY busy and packed, and no doubt other operators’ services will be busier than usual, if passengers try to find an alternative route.
As I previously wrote, I’m in favour of bus drivers and engineers getting a fair pay deal, and I hope they do, however I do feel that this union is doing a bit of ‘underhand’ misleading of the general public in an attempt to ‘whip-up’ people.
For starters, their quoting of profit figures made by ‘National Express’ relate to the National Express Group as a whole. The UK Bus division, which includes both NX West Midlands and NX Coventry (“Travel West Midlands Ltd”), makes up a small part of the group, and their contribution to the “£197 million profit” is barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.
I was sent the following which I’ll post here anonymously:
Of the £2.8 Billion NX Group Turnover it is broken down as follows:
ALSA = £962.5 Million (34%)
North America = £1048.2 Million (37%)
UK = £528.3 Million (19%)
German Rail = £268.5 Million (10%)
The £197.3 Group Profit:
ALSA = £103.9 Million
North America = £68.4 Million
UK = £25.6 Million (Which includes NXWM, NX Coaches, NETS & NEAT)
German Rail = £17.6 Million
The subsidary accounts aren’t on Companies House yet, but the priors year accounts showed WMT Ltd up to Dec 2021:
Turnover = £279.7 Million
Operating Profit = £11.6 Million
Pre-tax Profit = £7 Million
WMT Ltd used to make more than this years UK’s contribution to Group (£25 Million Profit) itself & more….
How much does £7m profit get you? About enough to buy 14-15 brand new electric buses…
“Passenger demand” may have risen across the ‘group’, but UK bus passenger numbers are still not quite at ‘pre-covid’ levels, and with rising operational costs, coupled with fares freezes, NX Bus are still in the same boat as other operators, with having to make service cuts/reductions in order to keep their mostly commercial service operation viable.
I have also been told that there is an improved pay offer – not the one reported by Unite or the local media – been put forward by NX Bus, however the union has been unwilling to let its members vote on this new deal.
So yes, for the above reasons I do believe that the Unite union are being a bit underhand and misleading people (including their own members it seems), because they are just agitating for a “headline-grabber” to give them attention and publicity.
In the meantime, many passengers have been left concerned and/or worried about how they will be able to travel to work, school, shopping or medical appointments, if there are very few bus services operating from the above date.
Maybe it’s hope more than anything, but it is my belief that a resolution can be reached within the next couple of weeks, which will see this intended strike action being called off.
Many people rely on buses to travel around – myself included because I don’t drive – so this strike action would be extremely damaging if it were to go ahead.
The other possible angle is that with NX Bus operating so much of the West Midlands bus network commercially, this strike action could be used to engineer public opinion into being more ‘accepting’ of the notion of bus ‘franchising’ to be introduced, as is happening in Manchester and Liverpool, which could see the end of the dominance of NX Bus in this region.
NX Bus advise passengers to check for latest updates on service levels during strike action on their website: