Commuter chaos averted as nationwide bus strike called off
Commuter chaos has been averted as this weekend’s strike action by bus drivers around the country has been called off after eleventh hour marathon talks in the Labour Relation Commission (LRC).
Delegates from Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus, the National Transport Authority (NTA), the Department of Transport and the two unions representing the workers were locked in discussions in Dublin until shortly after 4am this morning.
Kieran Mulvey, the chief executive of the LRC, said that all parties agreed to resolve the dispute and a five page document laying out the “terms of settlement” was distributed to the parties.
While representatives from Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) were pleased with the positive progress that had been made during the intense negotiations, a representative from Bus Eireann said their threat of legal action against the workers “had not been discussed”.
The NBRU said their strike action has been “called off”, while Siptu said it has been “deferred”.
The “open and robust” negotiations got underway on Monday and drew to a close earlier this morning.
This long-running, bitter dispute between the workers and the companies stems from plans to open up 10pc of the routes to public tender.
Independent.ie has obtained a copy of the LRC’s proposals, which include the following:
• Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has given assurance that no current employee would be required to compulsorily transfer to a new contractor.
• The introduction of a ‘Registered Employment Agreement’, which will include the terms of existing ‘Collective Agreements’.
This will include that the terms and conditions of employment will not be affected as a direct result of tendering bus services, it will contain assurances regarding security of employment, and employees in either bus company will not be “borne” with any “legacy cost” which may arise from the tendering of bus services.
• A Sector Employment Order (SEO) should also be established for the Public Service Obligation (PSO) bus market within four weeks of the Industrial Relations Bill being enacted.
• The NTA has confirmed to the LRC that they will adhere to the existing terms and conditions of staff that choose to transfer to a new operator, and this also includes pensions.
• The NTA said the tendering process will be examined on the basis of the “most economically advantageous tender” and that the labour costs will not be “the sole criteria”.
• Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe also indicated to the LRC that it is not the “intention of the Oireachtas” to tender the remaining 90pc of routes after 2019 when the current contracts with companies come to an end.
Workers at both unions were due to down tools tomorrow and Saturday, and for a further three days at the end of the month on May 29, 30 and 31.
Dermot O’Leary, the General Secretary of the NBRU, said the proposals from the commission have “enabled us to call off the strikes”.
Mr O’Leary said they will now move to “consult with our executive council on Monday, with a view to how we respond to the document in it’s totality”.
“We will be meeting on Monday next to discuss the document at length, but it seems to us as negotiators that there are proposals and solutions in the document that will enable us to do that,” Mr O’Leary added.
Siptu’s Owen Reidy said they have taken the decision to “defer” the five planned days of strike action.
“All of the days that Siptu had committed to are deferred and we have a four week window now to deal with all of the industrial relation issues resulting from this,” he said outside the LRC earlier this morning.
Mr Reidy said Siptu “would hope” they don’t have to take industrial action again, adding: “If everybody honours their obligations and if everybody works collectively in a progressive way that shouldn’t happen.
“We think our approach to this has been vindicated. We have always been interested in the future of public transport. We have always wanted to protect our members conditions of employment. We have always felt that other stakeholders had a role to play and that there were policy issues that needed to be dealt with. And we are delighted that most of these issues have been dealt with.”
Mr Mulvey described the row as a “particularly complex dispute, because it involved matters that are not normally dealt with by the commission, apart from industrial relations issues”.
However, he is confident that all parties are “at one with this” agreement.
“I think to a large degree, the seven days announcement of industrial action took everybody by surprise. So normally we would have a period in which we could tick tack with the parties, unfortunately we didn’t have that time over the last two weeks,” Mr Mulvey told Independent.ie.
“My understanding is that the Minister himself is happy with the progress we have made and that the Government policy in this regard is upheld, and whatever quirks that are required to be resolved, they will be resolved.
“And, we are happy and confident that Bus Eireann management and Dublin Bus are at one with this. And our understanding is that we have done nothing here that would compromise in anyway the NTA either in it’s duty as a regulator. And the unions both, have given an endorsement to the package.”
A spokesperson for Bus Eireann said they are “very happy that the threatened strike on Friday and Saturday has been averted” as “customers will now not be disrupted”.
“That is very good news, and we would welcome that,” he added.
All parties involved praised the work of the LRC, led by Mr Mulvey.
This morning Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Pat Kenny on Newstalk:
“I have to commend everyone involved in this. I think what’s happened here with the LRC is the old social partnership would not have been able to deal with this. I commend everybody."