Union urges talks with bus company to avert ‘complete shutdown’

The Unite union has urged Translink bosses to come up with an improved pay offer if a “complete shutdown” of bus services next week is to be averted.

By Mark Rainey
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 5:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 5:44 pm
A Translink Metro bus

Confirming that its members will be joining GMB bus workers in the industrial action, Davy Thompson of Unite said the union will return to the negotiating table if an offer that “meets the needs” of the membership is brought forward.

The industrial action was originally due to take place last month but was put on hold to allow a ballot on a revised pay offer to take place.

However, both the GMB and Unite have turned down the offer – meaning drivers, cleaners and shunters will stage a walkout for seven days from May 17 to May 23.

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Unite deputy regional secretary Mr Thompson said: “This action is likely to shut down all bus services across Northern Ireland and will be hugely disruptive to public transport.

Translink management still has the opportunity in coming days to avert this outcome by returning to the table and making an improved offer that meets the needs of Unite’s members.”

On Monday, the GMB union said the strike will cause a “complete shutdown” of bus services across Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham of Unite said: “Unite bus drivers in Translink and Ulsterbus have increasing bills to pay like everyone else.

“The employers have to grasp that with inflation reaching levels unprecedented in a generation, these workers deserve pay that protects them from the living costs crisis and they have Unite’s full support as they take strike action.”

A Translink spokeswoman said the company was “disappointed” at the outcome of the strike ballots, and added: “Following extensive negotiations, we made a further substantial offer for 2021, including an enhanced package of conditions, that we believe is fair and reasonable.

“At this stage, having exhausted all options, we will start to take the difficult decisions in preparing for the impact of the strike action. However, we remain committed to working with the unions to avert this action.

“We have reached out and would welcome the opportunity to engage with unions to cover school duties, so that the wellbeing of schoolchildren can remain a priority, particularly as many enter the exam period.”

The spokeswoman said that “all train services will continue to operate as normal,” and added: “We will communicate relevant passenger information through the media, on our website www.translink.co.uk, through social media, in stations and on buses and trains.

“Translink apologises for any inconvenience this may cause”.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said he believes the bus workers “are entirely justified in their decision,” – describing the pay offer on the table as “insultingly low”.

“It amounts to a real term pay cut,” Mr Carroll added.