Bus drivers 'held to ransom on pay by Stormont's feuding parties'
A trade union has accused Stormont parties of using bus drivers as political pawns as the Stormont stalemate over budget cuts continues.
Tomorrow bus workers are set to vote on whether to take "the worst case scenario" of strike action after pay talks with Translink broke down.
Unite said the talks had collapsed after the public transport provider withdrew an offer of a pay increase due to "additional cuts to public transport funding" by Stormont.
Michael Dornan from Unite said: "People seem to be suggesting 'strike action'. The reality is that that would be the worst case scenario. We are meeting on Wednesday morning to decide what action needs to be taken to try and force these political parties to agree as to where the funding goes. They seem to be playing political football with people's lives.
"The fact is that we sat down with the company in August to discuss our delayed pay proposals, at the first meeting they stated that the public sector guidelines to increase pay was set at 1%.
"The following week they then stated that due to the uncertainty regarding public transport funding they were now unsure if the 1% could even be offered as they were waiting to see the effects the additional cuts to funding would have before they could proceed with the pay talks.
"This is all due to the political deadlock with the leading parties failing to agree where the funding should go."
Mr Doran also said public transport was an important part of people's lives in Northern Ireland and that a properly funded public transport system was "vital for the very existence of many people".
The DUP and Sinn Fein have been at loggerheads over slashed Treasury funding for months. Sinn Fein refuses to implement welfare reforms, which the DUP sees as responsible for making Westminister-imposed cuts inevitable.
A Translink spokeswoman said: "Pay negotiations are ongoing with trade unions representing bus drivers. They cannot yet be finalised until the company has a clear picture of all funding streams from Government.
"Translink has not received any notification of a ballot for strike action. We will be seeking a further meeting with Unite and GMB representatives in the near future, as agreed at our most recent meeting last week."
Earlier this month Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said cuts to his department's budget could have serious implications for services in Northern Ireland such as street lighting, roads maintenance and water services.
He said there "will be consequences, not just to transport, but to Translink and to NI Water and people will notice a change in front line services".