More than 3,750 bus drivers across the West Midlands have been offered a pay rise of just 1.5 per cent – as their company rakes in profits of £80,000 a day.
A New Year wage battle is on the cards at Birmingham-based transport giant National Express after the firm tabled the initial offer to Unite the union.
Details of the pay talks emerged just days after it was revealed that the region’s biggest bus operator announced it was on track for a £9 million profits surge this year, pushing up earnings from £20 million for 2009 to £29 million this year.
Unite are seeking a five per cent pay rise across the board, plus improved sickness and pension terms and better conditions for standard rate drivers on lower pay.
They want improved workplace terms for many drivers, including harmonising conditions for drivers at Pensnett Garage, where workers are on inferior rates.
Unite regional official John Partridge said: “They have offered 1.5 per cent and have not come up with anything on improved sickness and pensions.
“A meeting to discuss the claim was cancelled last week due to the weather and we will be re-arranging in the New Year, when we will be looking for an improvement.
“We know that they have got problems and that they are losing part of their Bus Service Operators’ Grant but we have said that inflation stands at 4.7 per cent and that VAT is going up to 20 per cent in the New Year.”
Back in October Neil Barker, managing director for the National Express bus division, issued a statement, saying: “The union’s claim is particularly surprising at a time when there is such job insecurity and many in the public sector are having their pay frozen.”
But revelations of a £9 million profits rise by National Express chief executive Dean Finch is certain to add fuel to the drivers’ fight for an improved pay deal when negotiations resume in the New Year.
Mr Finch has stressed that up to £25 million is to be ploughed back into the regional bus division with 120 new buses.