§ 22. Mr. Molyneaux
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in arranging a merger between Belfast Corporation bus services and Ulsterbus.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
The agreed target date for the merger is 1st April 1973. Negotiations between all the interested parties, including the managements and the trade unions, are continuing.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Does my hon. Friend recognise that while such a merger will probably lead to greater efficiency in operation, it is important to ensure that the amalgamation does not lead to undue redundancies, particularly as all transport workers in Northern Ireland have been operating under great strain for a number of years?
§ Mr. Mills
Yes. Indeed, negotiations are going on at the moment between the management of the proposed new merged company, Citybus Limited, and the trade unions. These negotiations cover vital staffing matters, including wages and conditions, and the numbers to be employed by the merged undertaking.
§ Mr. Pounder
Do I understand that, despite the postponement of the local government elections and other local government matters, the merger is still scheduled for 1st April and has not been put off?
§ Mr. McNamara
Does the Minister understand that there are 450 threatened redundancies as a result of this merger, many of them within my own union? Bearing in mind the unemployment situation in Northern Ireland and the particularly difficult task of people who have 607 been involved in supplying transport services in the six counties over the past three years, these men need special consideration.
§ Mr. Mills
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he must be very clever to know the exact number of redundancies, because, as I understand it, these have not yet been ascertained. It is our intention to keep these to a minimum, and certainly all staff matters will be dealt with humanely and with the maximum consideration for the staff. All this is going on in close consultation with the Ministry of Development and the trade unions.