Trade union urges Heaton-Harris to release public sector pay rise cash ahead of Thursday's transport strike

Another day of strike action by Translink workers is almost certain to go ahead this week, even if a deal to restore Stormont is announced, a trade union leader has said.
Translink buses in Foyle Street, Londonderry. Photo: George SweeneyTranslink buses in Foyle Street, Londonderry. Photo: George Sweeney
Translink buses in Foyle Street, Londonderry. Photo: George Sweeney

Public transport is expected to be at a standstill on Thursday in what will be the sixth day of stoppages involving bus and train staff in a row over pay.

The government has said a £3.3 billion package is available for Northern Ireland, including £600 million to fund public sector pay increases, but only when the Stormont Executive is restored.

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Alan Perry from the GMB union has defended the strike, and rejected a suggestion the strategy has not been a success for the unions.

"We firmly believe that strike action has played a significant part in the Secretary of State (Chris Heaton-Harris) increasing the pot of money that is available for public sector pay.

"Unfortunately, that money is not on the table yet, and certainly that’s why the strike is continuing on Thursday,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show.

Mr Perry said union members are angered at the stance being adopted by Mr Heaton-Harris.

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"He needs to use whatever leverage he has to release that money, and release that money now.

“We have seen on previous occasions where the Secretary of State has legislated outside of his remit in relation to certain things, so there is nothing, we believe, to stop him releasing that money now”.

Mr Perry rejected a suggestion that the strike action should be suspended in the hope that a deal on restoring Stormont is imminent.

"We want Stormont up and running like anybody else. We would rather be dealing with local ministers, but that is not the case. And that is why the anger and frustration is building towards the secretary of state. He has dangled that carrot among our members.

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"We have no control in relation to when Stormont gets up and running”.

Pressed on whether the restoration of the Stormont Executive this week would be enough to have the strike called off, Mr Perry said: "That is something we may consider, but ultimately, we haven’t seen what is in the detail, and that is the key here”.