West Midlands Metro workers to strike for 53 days over 'poverty wages'

Workers believe West Midlands Metro's new proposal is inadequate Credit: PA

West Midlands Metro workers have announced 53 days of strike action will go ahead in a dispute over "poverty wages".

The action is expected to cause severe disruption across the Birmingham and Black Country, after 86% of workers voted for action.

The strike action will cause severe disruption across the Birmingham and Black Country metro network for 53 days between Saturday 15 October 2022 and Saturday 5 January 2023.

Unite, which represents West Midlands Metro workers, says it is demanding that their jobs, pay and conditions need to be enhanced.

Unite's general secretary Sharon Graham said: "It is disgraceful that despite our members undertaking extremely demanding and responsible jobs and ensuring that Birmingham and the Black Country keeps moving, they are paid poverty wages."

West Midlands Metro workers have declined the offer of over £25,000 to tram drivers and customer representatives and a 5.25% increase to all other grades - branding it as "inadequate".

The full list of strike dates:

  • October 15, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 29, 31

  • November 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, 30

  • December 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

  • January 1, 2, 5

The company says that the offer remains "on the table", despite Unite's decision to strike.

Tram drivers are seeking a minimum pay rate of £27,000 and a £5,000 increase for job grades which start at £21,537.

Tram drivers are currently paid £21,939 and say it is among the lowest rates in the UK for this kind of role.

Unite's regional officer Sulinder Singh said: "Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption and delays for metro passengers across Birmingham and the Black Country but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making.

"Midland Metro has had every opportunity to come forward with a pay offer which tackled low pay and met our members’ expectations but it has chosen not to do so."

Workers say West Midlands Metro's offer is 'inadequate'

A West Midlands Metro spokesman said: "Naturally, we are disappointed at the ballot result and the union’s decision to escalate the dispute, despite our extensive efforts to reach an amicable agreement."Unfortunately, Unite has also declined to continue negotiations through the conciliation service ACAS and have now informed us of dates on which they intend to undertake industrial action.

"However, a fair pay offer, including an increase of more than 15 per cent – or more than £3,300 a year – for tram crew with a full year’s service, remains on the table."These proposals also include an increase for tram crew in their first year who are still receiving training, bringing these salaries into line with those on similar-sized tram systems in other UK cities.

"Other colleagues across the network will also receive a significant pay rise."

The spokesman added: "This fair and comprehensive package was put forward following a difficult couple of years for the network, during which we have supported our colleagues through the pandemic and more recent service suspensions that were beyond our control."These challenges have inevitably had an impact on revenues, and we continue to operate with financial support from West Midlands Combined Authority.

"As a result, the proposals, which were initially accepted by Unite, represent our best offer in the current circumstances."Clearly, any industrial action risks impacting on the network’s post-pandemic recovery as well as causing unnecessary disruption for customers who we will update on affected services in due course."