School transport charges threatened

Education Authority CEO Gavin Boyd threatened to impose charges of between £50 and £200 per child for transport to school.

The imposition of charges from September 2017 would devastate low-income households. It’s another regressive stealth tax on working-class households. It is also an anti-rural policy affecting those living outside town centres disproportionately – indeed, it will compound the disadvantage suffered by those affected by rural school closures

The tax will encourage greater dependency on private transport and increase congestion and greenhouse gases emission. Increased pollution means increased pulmonary illness. What’s more, reducing the numbers travelling on buses undermines their long-term sustainability. The real potential cost-cutting here is in drivers’ wages – whether on Education Authority buses or Translink services.

Unite the Union, which organises all drivers in Translink and a majority of Education Authority drivers, has initiated a campaign ‘Hands Off Free School Transport’ with a Facebook page and online petition. This is a first step in raising awareness of this issue and putting pressure on the politicians. Drivers have distributed thousands of campaign leaflets on school buses and trains and the union’s reps have already signalled the possibility of industrial action. The next step must be to link this campaign to teachers’ unions to ensure schools join the stand against this unjust stealth tax – not at £200, not at £50, not at all.

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