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Northern Ireland: Transport Unions Are Set for Crunch Meeting With Dfi Boss Ahead of Bus and Rail Strike Ballot

Unite, GMB and SIPTU are set to proceed with coordinated industrial ballots after bus and rail workforce overwhelmingly rejects zero percent pay offer 

Passenger transport trade unions representing the overwhelming majority of Translink’s workforce are set to proceed to coordinated strike ballot as part of an escalating industrial dispute. The way to coordinated industrial ballots was opened after workers in three public transport unions rejected a zero percent pay offer. Bus workers in Unite the union voted 99% in a consultative ballot to proceed with an industrial ballot, up to and including a ballot for strike action – a similar result was achieved in GMB where the union engaged with their members, in SIPTU workplace reps at the NI Rail committee voted to reject the offer and proceed with an industrial ballot.

The escalating pay dispute was precipitated by management informing trade unions that they could only offer a zero percent increase due to the inadequacy of Department for Infrastructure public transport funding. Indeed, Translink management was unable to provide a date for negotiations on any improved pay offer.

All three trade unions wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure to seek an urgent meeting to highlight their concerns and the likely social and economic impact that would result from any strike by their members on Northern Ireland’s bus and rail services. A crunch meeting is now being scheduled with the Permanent Secretary and representatives of all three trade unions.

Unite Regional officer for Translink is Albert Hewitt who confirmed his trade union’s overwhelming consultative ballot result: 

“Unite the union workplace reps agreed to conduct a consultative ballot of our members working on the buses – as drivers, engineers and in conciliation grades – to give them a voice in the process. The result at 99% was an overwhelming vote rejecting management’s zero percent pay offer and demanding a ballot on industrial action, up to and including strike action.

“In the absence of any movement from Translink management or the Department, Unite will now coordinate an industrial ballot of our membership.”

GMB Regional Officer Peter Macklin confirmed that a meeting with the DfI Permanent Secretary has been arranged.

“As part of our efforts to seek a resolution to this pay dispute, all three trade unions wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure. A joint meeting involving representatives of all three trade unions has been agreed and we will lay out the impact that a zero percent pay increase would have on our members and demand the adequate funding of public transport services in Northern Ireland.

“This really is a crunch meeting. In the absence of movement, our members are resolute that there is no alternative but to proceed to coordinated industrial action ballots.”

SIPTU Regional Organiser Niall McNally highlighted the devastating impact that industrial action would have if it proceeds.

“Bus and rail services perform a vital role for Northern Ireland’s economy and society; they ensure workers get to work, school children get to school. The long-term failure of government to properly fund public transport in Northern Ireland is a disgrace and has led us to this point where management tell us that there simply is not the money to offer any pay increase to bus and rail workers.

“All three trade unions are in lockstep in this dispute. We will be making sharp demands of the Permanent Secretary. It is within his power to avoid what would be a debilitating strike action by bus and rail workers. He must act.”

Source : Unitetheunion