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Sunday 31 August 2014

Dublin Bus strike called off

Full services set to resume tomorrow after both sides go to talks at the Labour Court

Paul Melia

Published 06/08/2013 | 16:56

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THE Dublin Bus strike has been called off after both sides accepted an invitation to talks at the Labour Court.

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Full services are expected to resume in the morning for thousands of commuters who have been left without buses since Sunday.

However, the services will not resume before then - meaning commuters will have to make their own arrangements this evening and tonight.

The invitation to talks follows a day of informal discussions between Dublin Bus management and the two main unions at the company, the National Bus and Rail Union and SIPTU.

It is understood the court is satisfied that a deal can be brokered which is needed to cut costs by €11.7m a year, and exploratory talks aimed at ending the strike will take place tomorrow at 2pm.

SIPTU Sector Organiser Willie Noone said: “We welcome the intervention of the Labour Court as this dispute will only be resolved through negotiation and discussion.

“Our members will cease strike action on confirmation from Dublin Bus that it will withdraw its currently unacceptable cost cutting measures while talks take place.

“The sooner we get this confirmation the sooner our members will return to work and the Dublin Bus fleet can be put back into service.”

The strike has cost the company €1m in lost revenue, including the loss of passenger fares and State payments.  Some 3,180 staff who downed tools were not paid wages, while commuters and businesses have also been hit in the pocket.

Dublin Bus said it welcomed the invitation of the Labour Court to attend exploratory talks tomorrow, when a full bus service will operate.

"As requested by the Labour Court, Dublin Bus will suspend the implementation of the Labour Court Recommendation to enable these talks to proceed," said a spokeswoman.

"The company will work this evening to ensure that buses are ready to enter service from first bus tomorrow.

"Dublin Bus wishes to advise customers that a full bus service will operate across Dublin city tomorrow.

"Dublin Bus apologises to customers for the inconvenience and disruption caused over the past number of days."

The Dublin City Business Association, which represents 2,500 businesses in the city, said the numbers of shoppers in the city had fallen by 15pc today.

The Small Firms Association estimates that businesses have lost €4m through lost sales and productivity.

Some 400,000 commuters make a trip on one of the company’s 120 services every day, and many have been forced to use trains, their private cars and taxis to get to work.

Transport Minister Leo Varadakar and business chiefs had urged both sides in the row to talk to each other through trouble-shooters.

Siptu's Willie Noone said the union welcomed the invite by Kevin Duffy and warned the dispute will only be resolved through negotiation and discussion.

"Our members will cease strike action on confirmation from Dublin Bus that it will withdraw its currently unacceptable cost-cutting measures while talks take place," he said

"The sooner we get this confirmation the sooner our members will return to work and the Dublin Bus fleet can be put back into service."

The NBRU said Mr Duffy requested that trade unions suspend all action to coincide with the company reverting "back to the status quo" as it pertained prior to the dispute.

"Having received the necessary assurances from the company that they will defer (with immediate effect) the implementation of the cost reduction plan, the NBRU has suspended its industrial action in response to the request from the Labour Court to attend at exploratory talks tomorrow afternoon," it added.

Dublin traders had claimed they were losing €4 million as a result of the capital's bus strike.

Avine McNally, of the Small Firms Association (SFA), said the strike was creating misery for businesses as shoppers stay at home and employees turn up late for work.

"The strike is creating misery for commuters whose aim is to get to work in order to earn a living," she said.

"Businesses are facing yet more days of disruption as employees are late arriving for work and may have to depart early.

"While employees are making great efforts in attending work, there is still time lost and the overall cost in terms of days lost is difficult to assess, but the SFA estimate if employees in Dublin lost just 30 minutes today the result is 53,431 days lost, a lost productivity cost of just over €4million."

The dispute, which has grounded 920 buses on 120 routes, centres on €11.7m worth of cost-saving measures.

The cuts were drafted up following a series of recommendations from the Labour Court and include €7.7m from direct payroll costs.

Thousands of passengers, including revellers at the Oxegen music festival in Co Kildare and spectators going to the All-Ireland football quarter-finals in Croke Park, were left stranded when the action started on Sunday morning.

Another 200,000 were affected yesterday.

Dublin Bus said the action would cost it 200,000 euro (£173,000) on a weekend and 600,000 euro (£518,000) on each week day.

Mr Varadakar earlier said the Government was committed to finding a resolution in a way that will ensure the long-term sustainability of Dublin Bus, but insisted he would not intervene.

He stressed industrial relations trouble-shooters were willing to hold talks once all sides are prepared to cut a deal.

"That can only happen if they're satisfied there is a realistic prospect of an agreement and not just more talks because we have had 14 months of talks and 60 meetings," he said.

"We need to know management and two unions that are involved in this are ready to commit to very focused talks, short and sharp, and the kind of ones that will result in a solution in the coming days."

Union bosses have warned the fall-out could escalate as members in Irish Rail are "dissatisfied" with how bus driver colleagues are being treated by the company.

Meanwhile, the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) has revealed its members are also willing to join the picket line.

The union said support for the Dublin Bus workers grew when more than 220 supervisors belonging to the TSSA white collar union voted three to one to join the walkout.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary, said members had already refused to cross picket lines and that supervisors would strike from next Tuesday, after giving the company formal seven days notice of industrial action.

"Our members have made their feelings quite clear about what they see as management's high-handed handling of this dispute," he added.

"Unless there is a breakthrough this week, they will be joining the picket lines next week."

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