Northern Ireland faced widespread hardship on Thursday as public transport and education workers went on strike in a long-running pay dispute involving thousands of members of the three major unions.
A strike by 8,000 workers at public transport authority TransLink meant trains and buses were not running, causing serious traffic disruption as people took their cars to work or school.
This Thursday’s action, the first of four days of strikes planned for February by thousands of members of unions Unite (transport and manufacturing), GMB (health, trade and industry) and SIPTU (public and private sector), is the sixth – for December. One day strike from the beginning.
Some schools were forced to close as school bus workers, school caterers, administrative staff and classroom assistants picketed outside several facilities. More than 800 members of the Unite union are set to extend their strike for a second day on Friday.
Thursday’s strike came despite the prospect of a normalized shared government between unionists and Sinn Féin being suspended after the union’s formation was agreed between Westminster and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on Tuesday. Was. The government is effectively freezing public sector salaries and promotions for years from the end of 2021.
New legislation and changes to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Act needed to implement the concessions included in the deal ending the DUP boycott will be debated in the House of Commons this Thursday.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the restoration of executive power-sharing in the Stormont Assembly, established by the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998, would allow Northern Ireland to receive $4.3 billion in funding from central government to address public . Sector wage crisis.
The money has been stuck in the treasury for two years because only locally elected politicians are legally allowed to spend it, but unions urged the minister to “do the right thing and release the money”.
“Despite the latest developments at Stormont, our members still face the prospect of the 0% pay offer made last year coming into effect,” said Peter Macklin, regional organizer for the GMB union.
“Just a few years ago, these workers were hailed as frontline heroes. They deserve better and they are ready and willing to strike to get it.”
Unite’s regional coordinator Davie Thompson accused Heaton-Harris of confusion over the funding package.
“The Secretary of State never said ‘Okay, this is for here, this is for that’, so we don’t really know what’s in the deal and what it means for our members,” he said.
The Coordinator emphasized that his members did not know what they could expect from the agreement between Westminster and unionism.