Thousands of public transport users in Bradford and Belfast face travel chaos as First West Yorkshire drivers take 48-hour strike action and Ulsterbus, Metro and NI Rail services confirm a second 24-hour stoppage over cuts to funding and services.
The 380 bus drivers at First West Yorkshire will strike on 27 and 28 April over the bus company’s actions of running the bus depot down with the intention of closing it in the future.
Unite also confirmed a second on-day stoppage in Translink – affecting all Ulsterbus, Metro and NI Rail services – on Wednesday May 6, over proposed cuts to bus and rail services.
“These cuts will impact the most vulnerable people in society who are dependent on public transport and force more people onto the roads at a time when funding for roads maintenance budgets is being cut to the bone,” said Jimmy Kelly, Unite regional secretary.
In Belfast cuts are being proposed to hospital runs, shopping services, rural routes and town centre buses as well as cuts to morning, evening and Saturday rail services on the Larne-Belfast and Newry-Bangor lines.
Unite estimates that the cuts will save only £6m to £7m while the NI Executive can find £325m to fund the costs of achieving global tax haven status.
In Bradford there have been allegations of bullying and harassment of staff on a daily basis, an attack on terms and conditions and the imposition of rosters without consultation and negotiations with the union.
“This blinkered management has let services wither on the vine over the last four years – for example, the number of drivers employed has shrunk from 470 to 380 in that time,” said Harriet Eisner, Unite regional officer.
First West Yorkshire has been dragging its feet in talks with the union and so Unite has been left with no other option but to call for a strike.
“While the strike will be an inconvenience for thousands of bus users, the bigger picture that Unite is fighting for is the maintenance of good and reliable services with top quality buses, properly serviced,” added Harriet.
The situation is compounded by inadequate engineering of the buses and the recycling of old buses. Many are unreliable raising health and safety concerns.