By Thomas Carmichael
Translink workers across Northern Ireland are to take strike action from midnight on 1st December, the first day that late night Christmas services were to run. The strike means no bus or rail services will operate in Northern Ireland that day. The Unite regional officer for Translink has confirmed this is only the first day of planned strikes and that workers will escalate their action unless a settlement is reached.
This action has been taken by workers in response to Translink’s disgraceful attempt to implement a pay freeze. The company bosses are pleading poverty and blaming the Secretary of State’s brutal austerity budget for the lack of an offer. While it certainly is true that Chris Heaton-Harris has implemented an abhorrent budget, slashing public spending in NI by over 3% (even before inflation is accounted for), in a ruthless attempt to make ordinary working-class people carry the can for the Stormont Crisis; this cannot be used as an excuse for attacking the wages and living standards of workers.
Translink workers operate one of Northern Ireland’s most invaluable public services; one that a significant section of the population relies on to get to work, school, attend medical appointments, do the weekly shop and everything else. These workers that provide this vital service for us deserve an inflation busting pay-rise to keep their heads above water during the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. One wonders what impact the budget will have on the salaries of Translink’s three executive directors who last year received salaries and benefits totaling almost half a million pounds, while an outgoing director received a retirement lump sum of an additional £141,000.
Blaming poor or non-existent pay offers on the budget and lack of an Executive has become the go to excuse for public sector bosses in the last period. Workers must not accept this evasive line of argument and where necessary should bypass management altogether and try to bring pressure to bear directly on the Secretary of State. This has proved successful in the past in cases where it had previously been claimed there was no money in the budget for pay rises, such as in the case of Housing Executive maintenance workers who were on strike for six months earlier this year.