Austerity Budget Blamed For Bus And Rail Strike

An austerity budget imposed by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, has been blamed for the first bus and rail strike in Northern Ireland since 2015.

Translink NI workers with Unite, GMB and SIPTU will begin a 24-hour, network wide, strike from midnight tonight, in a pay dispute.

The strike action will affect bus and rail services across Northern Ireland and the action by members of all three public transport unions is likely to mean that no services will operate throughout the day. The strike is the first to occur on bus and rail since 2015.

The industrial action follows coordinated strike ballots held by the three unions which returned overwhelming support for industrial action. Bus workers in Unite voted 96.5% for strike, Translink workers in GMB voted 95.6% for strike and in SIPTU by 93.1%.

The ballots were conducted after workers rejected a pay freeze– equivalent to a 11 per cent real-terms pay cut once (RPI) inflation is taken into account.
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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "To attempt to impose a pay freeze is sickening in what is the worst cost of living crisis for workers in decades.

"In taking strike action, our members can be confident of the full and continuing support of Unite."

GMB, regional organiser Peter Macklin said: "Strike action is always a last resort for all workers but our members have been offered no alternative but to halt work for a 24 hour period. The impact of this strike will be very significant and will affect all parts of Northern Ireland's economy and society. The secretary of state must intervene now to improve funding for public transport services so that public transport workers can receive a cost of living pay increase."

Niall McNally regional organiser for SIPTU's membership in Translink, said: "This is only the first day of planned strike action by bus and rail workers. Like all other public sector workers, those employed by Translink have a right to a pay increase that offers protection from rising prices. If further disruption in the lead up to Christmas is to be avoided, the secretary of state will need to reverse his approach, end the pay freeze policy and remove threats to public transport services in Northern Ireland."

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