Northern Ireland

Transport workers urged to give time for pay talks over concerns three strike days could still take place next week

A public transport workers strike is set to take place in Northern Ireland across Friday (PA)
Translink has been informed that three days of strike action could still take place next week, from February 27-29. (PA)

TRANSPORT workers have been urged to give Stormont a chance to secure a pay deal after reports that three further days of strike action could still take place next week.

Translink workers in GMB, SIPTU and the Unite unions had been due to walk out on February 15, but had agreed to push this back until Tuesday to Thursday next week - February 27-29 - to allow time for pay negotiations.

This was because of the Stormont Executive announcement that £688m was being released to secure pay awards for public sector workers.

While this was enough for unions representing teachers and nurses to put off any further strike dates, the Nolan Show reported on Wednesday that the GMB union had informed Translink that next week’s 72-hour walkout could still go ahead.

A spokesperson for GMB told The Irish News they were unable to comment ahead of the planned pay talks on Thursday.

A Translink spokesperson confirmed they had received the notice, but that all services were currently planned to run as normal.

“While we have received formal notification of industrial action next week on February 27, 28 and 29, we continue to engage with our trade union colleagues regarding this proposed action,” they said.

“Services are scheduled to operate as normal at present. Any updates will be added to our website:”

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd commented: “Pay awards for the public sector are high on the Executive’s agenda which is demonstrated by the agreement of funding by the Executive at last Thursday’s meeting. The negotiation of pay awards with unions is now a matter for Translink management and I hope that there will be a speedy resolution.”

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster told the Nolan programme that while he supported calls for pay increases, further transport strikes at such an early stage in the current process would be “another body blow” after several difficult years for his sector.

“I would appeal to the unions…please sit down and exhaust all channels of negotiation before any strikes happen, it is a really challenging time for our industry and there are other sectors and people who will be impacted,” he said.

He added that hospitality businesses struggling to turn a profit after the traditionally quiet January trading period could not afford any more disruption to their cash flow.

Meanwhile, GMB has already warned of further industrial action from classroom assistants after a meeting with the Education Minister Paul Givan on Tuesday.

The union said Mr Givan had made it clear there was no money available within the current public sector pay budget to address pay and grading for school support staff, a dispute that has been ongoing since 2018.

Junior doctors represented by the British Medical Association have also overwhelmingly backed 24 hours of strike action from 8am on March 6.

The BMA were highly critical of health officials following talks on pay last week, but the health-minister Robin Swann has said any further negotiations must be a two-way street.