FAO Retired Members
We wanted to inform you about the recent developments regarding the Department for Infrastructure’s proposal to remove funding for the smart card entitlement to free bus travel for pensioners in Northern Ireland. This proposal, driven by budget cuts, threatens the essential benefits that pensioners currently enjoy.
Recent Activity: There has been significant activity within local communities in response to the Department of Infrastructure’s consultation on this matter. A demonstration outside the Department’s office was held earlier this week, and numerous submissions have already been submitted.
Meeting Summary: A meeting was held at Belfast City Hall on June 20th, where discussions were held about this critical issue. The meeting was organized by Councillors from the People Before Profit political party and chaired by Cllr Michael Collins. Various stakeholders were present, including elected representatives from PBP, Workers Party, members of trade unions like GMB, Unison, Nipsa, Unite, UCU, as well as representatives from Disability Action.
Key Points from the Meeting:
- Collective Opposition: All participants at the meeting expressed their strong opposition to the proposed funding cut, which would limit the free public transport access currently available to older persons.
- Legality Concerns: Some organizations questioned the legality of the consultation process, especially in the absence of proper political structures. There are doubts about whether the consultation fulfills its Statutory Duty Regulations.
- Potential Legal Challenge: Mention was made of a potential legal challenge to the Secretary of State regarding the overall legality of the Budget for Northern Ireland in several areas. It was also noted that Translink might reduce services during the winter.
- Impact on Vulnerable Groups: The meeting highlighted how these proposed changes could disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including those living in poverty, those with health-related needs, victims and survivors of the political situation, and rural dwellers.
- Structured for Reduction: The consultation’s structure was criticized for seemingly leading to reductions, cuts, and restrictions, raising concerns about its fairness and transparency.
- Call for Action: There was a unanimous sentiment that political parties, elected representatives, and trade unions have not been sufficiently vocal about this issue. All participants were encouraged to raise public awareness and express their concerns to ensure a stronger collective response.
- Public Expression: It was emphasized that public expression of opinion is crucial in shaping the outcome of consultations like this one.
- Upcoming Rally: The meeting agreed to organize a public rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, August 19th, at 1pm to demonstrate a united stance against the proposed funding cut.
Your Involvement Matters: We urge all retired union members to get involved and participate in the rally on August 19th. This is an opportunity to make your voices heard and ensure that our pensioners’ entitlement to free bus travel is protected. Together, we can create a significant impact and stand up for what’s right.
Let’s join forces to protect the rights and benefits of our pensioners. Your active participation will be invaluable in making a difference. We look forward to your presence at the rally and the planning meeting