Strike action ‘to protect our jobs and public services’

Public services in Limavady are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions, with picket lines in the town centre.

The day of industrial action by public sector workers - over budget cuts and job losses - will be one of the largest for years, organisers have said.

In Limavady, at the Ulsterbus depot, it is eerily quiet apart from Unite and GMB trade union members outside, staging a picket line. They say they’re on strike to protect their jobs and bus services in the area.

Those on the picket line include several bus drivers, many with more than 20 years service.

“We’re on strike to protect, not just our jobs but services for people in the area,” said one member. “Take, for example, the town service in Limavady which is under threat. It’s a lifeline for people who use it, many who are elderly, and it’s the only way they have of getting out of their house. In the mornings, it’s like a community centre on that bus and, if someone doesn’t get on, people are wondering if that person is ill. That’s how much it means to people.”

Members fear cutbacks may also mean loss of shifts for drivers in Limavady, and they also worry about the future presence of Ulsterbus in the Roe Valley.

Unite and GMB union members at the Ulsterbus depot in Limavady.

Unite and GMB union members at the Ulsterbus depot in Limavady.

One member added: “It’s time the politicians stopped hiding behind desks. If it was impacting them, it would be a different story.”

Social Security Agency and Department of Learning staff, members of the union NIPSA, in Limavady are also staging a small picket line, waving flags and holding placards with the words ‘Austerity NO’ ‘Public Services YES’ in front of the Jobs & Benefits Office on Connell Street.

Sinead McLaughlin, Stephanie Lynch and William Brooks and Ryan McLaughlin (all pictured) were on the picket line.

“The two overarching reasons why we’re on strike is to protectc our jobs and to protect our pay, two things which have taken a bit of a hammering in the six months to a year,” said Ryan.

“On the bigger picture it’s about ultimately protecting public services as well, things like health and education, which are vitally important to our selves.”

The strike is also affecting education, and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure “critical services will be maintained”.

Some schools are partially open today because a third of teachers are on strike and other staff, including classroom assistants, aren’t at work either.

Translink is not operating any scheduled bus or train services, except the Ulsterbus express Belfast to Dublin service at 23:00 GMT.