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Unions are arguing for a cost-of-living pay increase Liam McBurney/PA Images

Public transport workers in Northern Ireland stage further strike today

Translink said none of its bus or train services will operate on Friday due to industrial action, and full timetables will resume on Saturday.

NORTHERN IRELAND SECRETARY Chris Heaton-Harris has been challenged over pay awards for public sector workers as another strike brings transport in the region to a standstill today.

Bus and rail services in Northern Ireland are being halted for a third day in just over a week on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, just before Christmas.

Members of the Unite, GMB and Siptu unions employed by public transport company Translink started the action just after midnight on Friday.

It follows a two-day stoppage last week and has brought all bus and rail services to a standstill.

Further public transport strike dates are expected to be announced in the new year.

The dispute is over pay, with unions arguing for a cost-of-living pay increase.

The unions said they were told Translink could “only offer a pay freeze” due to the budget set by Heaton-Harris earlier this year in the absence of locally elected ministers.

Meanwhile, there will be a “generalised day of action” by public sector workers, including health workers, midwives, radiographers, teachers and civil servants on 18 January over pay.

Screenshot 2023-12-22 07.13.44 Unions said they were told Translink could "only offer a pay freeze" due to the budget set by Chris Heaton-Harris earlier this year James Manning / PA Images James Manning / PA Images / PA Images

Political parties took part in talks with Heaton-Harris earlier in the week where they were told of a £3.3 billion (about €3.8 billion) financial package from the UK Government which could cover public sector pay awards if devolved government was resurrected.

But the DUP, who are refusing to participate in the Stormont Assembly until unionist concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements are addressed, has indicated it remains in discussions with the Government.

‘Cruelly dangling funding’

GMB regional organiser Peter Macklin accused Heaton-Harris of “cruelly dangling funding for a pay increase in front of public sector workers”.

“He is seeking to politicise the issue of public sector pay and the proper funding of public sector services,” he said.

“Workers face an 11% real-terms pay cut, that is not something that should be leveraged in negotiations or made a divisive issue. Adequate funding for public transport and for a cost-of-living increase for workers is something that must be provided by right.”

In a statement, Translink said none of its bus or train services will operate today due to industrial action, and full timetables will resume on Saturday.

“We remain fully committed to entering constructive pay negotiations. However, this can only be done once the budget issue has been resolved,” they said.

“This situation impacts all public sector workers and needs to be resolved at the Northern Ireland Executive level.

“We have urged our colleagues to reconsider and pause this action in light of the social and economic impact it will have at this time.

“Passenger information is available through the media, on the website, through social media, in stations, and on buses and trains. The contact centre will also remain open 028 90 666630.

“We apologise to all our passengers for any inconvenience this may cause.”

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