Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy has refused to intervene over a massive 18% pay award to train drivers by Translink.
He has decided not to bring the issue for debate to the Executive, documents seen by this newspaper confirm.
Mr Kennedy admitted that the salary increase might “appear high in the present economic climate”, but he is satisfied that the three-year package can be justified.
He said the increase averages out at 5.9% a year over the next three years and it was the lowest cost option to deliver the enhanced services he plans to announce later this year.
The Regional Development Minister also rebuked the Stormont committee which monitors his department over a public attack on the transport company’s rising debt levels, and how it intends to tackle them.
The Ulster Unionist further suggested the committee, chaired by the DUP’s Jimmy Spratt, should consider conducting a formal inquiry comparing rail costs and rail subsidies across the United Kingdom.
He also revealed he has sent in the Executive’s special task force — the Performance Efficiency and Delivery Unit (PEDU) — to attempt to find more savings within the transport company.
Mr Spratt met with Mr Kennedy yesterday in an attempt to clear the air before the minister appears before the regional development committee in the next few weeks.
But the DUP MLA said there are concerns that the relationship between Translink chiefs and senior officials in the department are a “bit too cosy”.
“Every time Translink come up to appear before the committee the department comes up as well, and we want to break that habit,” he said.
Mr Kennedy’s officials hit back saying that the PEDU exercise is “hardly evidence of a cosy relationship”.
Translink argues the train drivers’ increase will prove to be self- financing since it stretches over a three-year period and includes an end to expensive ‘extras’ such as drivers being paid for a full overtime shift even if only required for part of it. Under the contract drivers will also for the first time have to work on two ‘special days’ a year, which include public holidays.