Northern Ireland bus strike going ahead after Translink and unions fail to reach pay agreement

The action could see Ulsterbus and Metro bus services withdrawn for one week across Northern Ireland.

Trade unions representing bus drivers have failed to reach an agreement with Translink to prevent planned strike action.

Drivers voted last week to strike over a pay offer from the public transport provider.

The action could see all Ulsterbus and Metro bus services withdrawn for one week from April 25, which would likely affect the whole country including school bus and airport services.

Translink met with officials from the Unite and GMB unions on Tuesday.

In a statement after the meeting, a Translink spokesperson said it was "committed to working with the unions to avert this unprecedented industrial action".

They have claimed the unions would not concede on providing transport for schoolchildren or for the tourism sector during the strike.

"As a priority, we asked the unions to continue to provide public transport for schoolchildren, reflecting on the wellbeing of young people as we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly as we come close to exam season," a Translink spokesman said.

"Regrettably, the unions have declined to give any commitment to providing public transport for schoolchildren during the proposed seven-day strike action.

"We will continue to discuss this issue, but parents and carers are advised to stand ready to make alternative arrangements for children that normally travel on any Translink bus service to and from school.

"We also asked the unions to provide public transport for key tourism services during the proposed seven-day strike action, reflecting on the impact to the local economy, including cross-border and local airport services, as well as the buses booked to support the international Belfast City Marathon event and services for visitors on those cruise ships due into Belfast Harbour.

"Regrettably, the unions at this point have also declined this request. Event organisers will need to make alternative arrangements if we cannot reach a resolution in the coming days.

"Translink will communicate relevant passenger information through the media, on their website, through social media, in stations and on buses and trains.

"Translink apologises for any inconvenience this may cause".

The GMB union welcomed Translink's commitment to continue talks.

"GMB are also committed to finding a solution," a spokesman said.

"That solution can and will only be found when Translink recognise that our members deserve a pay increase that addresses the increased pressures caused by the cost of living crisis.

"Our members are aware of the disruption this action will have on the travelling public, they have been the same passengers that our members have provided carriage for throughout the pandemic and Translink management need to recognise the efforts of our members during these unprecedented two years.

"We do not take this action to cause distress to the public, but our members have been left with no alternative. The solution to this lies firmly with Translink and we too remain committed to finding a resolution."