29/11/2011

NI Set To Grind To A Halt As Strike Bites

All public transport, including trains and buses and many local services such as refuse collection are all to grind to a halt at midnight tonight as one of the largest UK-wide strikes in recent years kick-off.

Many school are expected to be hard hit as well, although it is not yet clear about actual closures, as one teachers' union is not taking part in the action.

Belfast City Council has already announced that a range of services will not be operating on Wednesday due to strike action by public sector workers.

Translink has said that the cross-border Enterprise train service from Dublin will stop at Dundalk and will not operate in Northern Ireland on the day of a major strike next week and NI commuters will be faced with a stark choice with no buses or trains operating across Northern Ireland.

Picket lines will be in place on Wednesday, with up to two million workers taking action in the continuing row over pensions, pay freezes and job cuts in the public sector as union leaders and government officials have clashed over who is to blame for the deadlock.

In Belfast, bins will not be collected and all recycling centres and civic amenity sites will be closed, as will leisure centres and sports pitches and even dying will be 'limited' as while the Registrar's Office will be open - it will only be for death registrations only.

Belfast Zoo will be closed to the public and there will be no city hall tours and those hoping to 'spend a penny' in public toilets will also be disappointed as they will be closed.
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The unions have said they are striking because of proposed changes to pensions for public sector workers, and spending cuts.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: "Industrial action planned for 30 November may have an impact on local schools.

"In order to help parents and guardians be prepared for the day, the Education and Library Boards have written to all grant-aided schools asking principals to inform parents and guardians of the potential impact on their child's school.

"Principals have been asked to advise on whether the school will be open on the day and, if their school will remain open, what effect there may be to transport and school meals services.

"Many schools have already informed parents and guardians of the impact which is enabling them to make alternative arrangements where appropriate.

"Parents should appreciate that individuals in schools and support services such as school transport who intend to strike are not obliged to declare their intention in advance and therefore the full impact of the strike may not become apparent until the day.

"The guidance from the Education and Library Boards, however, asks principals to communicate with parents at the earliest opportunity," said a statement on Friday.

The PSNI have said in a statement that bus lanes in towns and cities across Northern Ireland will not be enforced on Wednesday in a bid to ease traffic congestion due to widespread strike action.

The Department of Justice has confirmed arrangements in advance of tomorrow's planned industrial action.

All scheduled visits at Maghaberry, Magilligan, Hydebank Wood and Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre will proceed as normal.

Court and tribunal hearings will proceed as listed and jurors should attend as required.

(BMcC)

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