Belfast Telegraph

Translink bus and train staff to stage 24 hour strike on election eve in Northern Ireland

Bus and train staff to protest a day before general election

By Michael McHugh

Bus and train workers are to strike for 24 hours again on the eve of the general election - May 6.

All Ulsterbus, Metro and NI Rail services will be affected by the protest against cuts to public transport.

Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said that the elderly and infirm who depend upon buses and trains would be hurt by planned reductions to services by provider Translink.

"Unite estimates that the cuts to bus and rail services will save only £6-£7m - a meagre sum in terms of the wider budget.

"Yet these cuts will compromise the integrity and inter-connectivity upon which Northern Ireland's public transport system rests.Our drivers and engineers are concerned that cuts to 'non-economic' services presage moves to break up and contract out profitable routes - a move that would undermine the 85% of routes that are non-profitable."

Mr Kelly said he was seeking a meeting with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

"The proposed cuts to bus and rail services being brought forward by Translink will impact the most vulnerable people in our society - including the old and infirm, those with families, the working poor, those living in isolated, rural communities who are dependent on public transport."

He said reductions were being proposed to hospital runs, shopping services, rural routes and town centre buses, as well as to morning, evening and Saturday rail services on the Larne-Belfast and Newry-Bangor lines.

Mr Kelly said: "These cuts will force increasing numbers on to the roads at a time when funding for roads maintenance budgets is being cut to the bone and roads maintenance workers confined to depots for lack of tar, concrete or diesel.

"There can be no excuse for these cuts at a time when the Northern Ireland Executive can find £325m to fund the costs of achieving global tax haven status ," he said, referring to the plan to reduce corporation tax.

In mid-March, Translink cancelled scheduled bus and train services due to strike action across Northern Ireland by the Unite and GMB trade unions.

They were joined by members of the Unison and GMB unions working in health, education, the civil service and transport for a 24-hour walkout on March 13.

Earlier in March, a Stormont committee heard that Translink may have to lay off 150 people next year as part of a raft of cost saving measures.

In February, Translink hiked bus fares by more than three times the rate of inflation. In early March, Translink revealed it may have to lay off 150 people next year with a £10m voluntary exit scheme to help plug a £25m budget hole.

The outgoing boss of Translink, David Strahan, has a salary of almost £156,000.

Belfast Telegraph


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