Northern Ireland

Bus and train services set for standstill as unions confirm 24-hour strike over pay

Bus and rail services will not be available in the north on December 1 as a 24-hour strike by union members working for Translink takes place.
Bus and rail services will not be available in the north on December 1 as a 24-hour strike by union members working for Translink takes place. Bus and rail services will not be available in the north on December 1 as a 24-hour strike by union members working for Translink takes place.

BUS and rail services in the north are set to be brought to a standstill after union members backed a 24-hour strike for the first day of December.

Members of Unite, GMB and SIPTU working for Translink backed strike action following "unprecedented" ballots over pay.

The unions have said Translink is attempting to enforce a "pay freeze" on staff, while Translink has said budget restraints faced by the Department for Infrastructure mean no money is available for a pay offer.

Translink has confirmed that no bus or rail services will operate on December 1 as the 24-hour strike begins at one minute past midnight.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Our members have been left with no alternative but to take strike action. Trying to instigate a pay freeze is never acceptable, to do so during the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation is abhorrent."

The union's regional officer for Translink, Albert Hewitt, said December 1 was only the first in a "series of strikes" planned for the coming weeks.

Read  more:

  • Translink unions organising meeting with infrastructure permanent secretary amid escalating pay dispute
  • Union ballot on strike action underway as Translink staff face 'worst cost of living squeeze in a generation'

Next Friday's strike is taking place on the day Translink planned to launch its late-night train and Goldliner/Urby bus services ahead of the Christmas period. Late night- Metro bus services in Belfast begin this Friday, November 24.

"Unless management returns to the negotiating table with an offer of a real-terms pay increase, our members will be left with no alternative but to escalate industrial action to defend their incomes," Mr Hewit said.

Speaking ahead of the strike confirmation, SIPTU senior organiser Niall McNally said: "No worker wants to be in the situation of taking strike action in the run-up to Christmas but Chris Heaton-Harris’ budget settlement leaves our members with no alternative."

A Translink spokesperson told the Irish News that following the confirmation by the unions "it is expected there will be no train or bus services – Ulsterbus, Goldliner, Metro or Glider, operating on Friday 1st December".

“Following the budget allocation from the Secretary of State, Translink did not receive a budget for a pay offer from the Department for Infrastructure and as such cannot make a pay offer at this time," the spokesperson said. 

"Ultimately, this issue needs to be resolved for many public sector workers at the NI Executive level.

“While we understand and recognise the concerns that have led to our trade union colleagues’ decision to vote in favour of industrial action, we would urge our colleagues not to take action which could further exacerbate the financial pressures on Translink, could impact on school children and could damage the livelihoods of many businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors who depend on the busy Christmas period.

“We remain committed to working with our colleagues in the trade unions to avoid disrupting services that so many of our passengers rely on."

They added: “Translink apologises for any inconvenience this may cause”.