Monday 26 September 2016

Bus Éireann staff to ballot for strike as Dublin Bus off road until Sunday

Laura Larkin

Published 23/09/2016 | 02:30

Siptu section organiser Owen Reidy speaks to media. Photo: Frank McGrath
Siptu section organiser Owen Reidy speaks to media. Photo: Frank McGrath

A second union at Bus Éireann is set to ballot for standby strike action in the event of the company introducing structural changes.

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Siptu will 'protectively ballot' their members in the CIE company before the end of the month. A protective ballot means that if the company tries to introduce changes that were discussed this week, staff will be ready to go on strike.

The National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) is also set to ballot its members for industrial action over changes to the Expressway model. Strike action at the semi-State company would cost around €500,000 per day and some 113,000 passengers would be affected.

Meanwhile, Dublin Bus services are once again out of action today as a strike by drivers continues.

Services will not resume in the capital until Sunday. Thirteen more days of strike action are planned, including on Saturday, October 1, the day of the All-Ireland football final replay.

Affordable

Last night, the company said it remained open to talks but said that the 15pc increase sought by drivers was not affordable.

"Dublin Bus has come through an extremely tough financial period in recent years due to the recession and has only just reached a stable financial footing.

"We have a responsibility to our employees and to the taxpayer to manage our finances to safeguard the economic and financial stability of the company," a spokeswoman said.

To date, strikes have cost the company €4m, and stoppages today and tomorrow will cost an extra €2m, leaving Dublin Bus in a loss-making position by the end of the year; the remaining planned strikes will have a "catastrophic impact" on the company's financial position, she said.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has made no further comment on the strikes after saying this week he would not act as a "sugar daddy" to end the dispute.

He has also ruled out opening bus lanes to private traffic.

The latest developments come as a pay dispute within Irish Rail also looms. Workers at the company are preparing a pay claim of their own and it is expected this could begin working its way through the industrial relations process before November.

But the Bus Éireann dispute seems the most likely to escalate in the coming weeks.

This week a letter from Martin Nolan, chief executive of Bus Éireann, ruled out pay increases because the company's finances are "in critical position".

However, Owen Reidy, section organiser with Siptu, said the union would go ahead with their pay claim and would not engage in discussions about any restructuring.

"The problem is with mismanagement and with the National Transport Authority handing out licences for private operators on Expressway routes. Our workers have made enough sacrifices in the last eight years," he said.

While it is too early to speculate, the option of an all-out strike at Bus Éireann has not yet been ruled out.

Irish Rural Link has also expressed concerns about any restructuring of the Expressway service which they say could lead to "rural isolation".

The group has called for a public enquiry into Bus Éireann to determine which Expressway routes are profitable and which are not profitable.

"Many people in rural areas use the Expressway service for work, college, medical appointments and for leisure in larger towns and cities across the country, and we are concerned that any changes to routes and the service will further isolate people in rural areas," said a spokesperson.

Irish Independent

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