National Express union-busting harassment hotline launched

Company unjustly calling police to try and harass strikers and threatening jobs

Reading time: 4 min

More reports have emerged of union busting bullying at National Express after strikes by more than 3,100 bus drivers began this week, Unite said on Wednesday (March 22).

Workers are increasingly angry over the company’s strike breaking tactics, which include unjustly calling the police to peaceful picket lines and threatening striking workers with job losses and route closures. In response, Unite today launched a freephone hotline on 0808 164 0368 for workers to report instances of intimidation in relation to the dispute.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Our members are rock solid in their determination to win a pay rise that reflects the difficulty of their roles and soaring living costs. They know that National Express can absolutely afford to pay it.

“The company’s bully boy tactics to break the strike will only result in worsening the dispute and Unite will make sure National Express is held fully accountable for any intimidation of our members. There is only one way to end this: National Express must put forward an offer that is acceptable to our members.”

As well as misusing the police service and issuing job and route threats, fresh reports have also emerged of:

  • Workers being told they will be barred from overtime in the future because they went on strike
  • Workers who are not taking strike action have also been told they will face disciplinary action if they refuse to cross a picket line

Earlier this month, Unite accused National Express of:

  • Dragging individuals into one-to-one meetings to brow beat them into not taking strike action
  • Sending text messages demanding to know if workers were going to strike
  • Attempting to force Unite into endorsing a deal it knew members would not accept
  • Interfering in the union’s democratic processes by trying to prevent a workplace ballot on the pay offer, which was subsequently rejected by members

Between 2018 and 2021, average pay at National Express for West Midlands’ bus workers fell by six per cent in real terms with the gap increasing even further, in 2022, because of rocketing prices. Meanwhile, over the last 10 years, National Express paid its CEO an average annual salary of £2.6 million. Earlier this month, the company boasted to the Stock Exchange that last year revenues had increased 29 per cent to £2.8 billion, with operating profits more than doubling to touching £200 million.

A National Express bus driver’s starting salary begins at just £11.80 an hour, progressing to just over £14 after three years of service. Meanwhile Abellio workers in London are paid £18 an hour after two years of service, which more closely reflects the difficulties and pressures that come with the job (see notes to editors).

Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said, “National Express needs to put forward an improved offer that reflects the difficulties of the role our members undertake.

“Our members do not want to strike but have been forced to by the company, who bear full responsibility the for disruption being caused. National Express can afford to put forward a fair pay offer and that is what needs to happen.”

By Ryan Fletcher