Wednesday 20 September 2017

TDs could be forced to step into bus row

Further strikes to bring commuter travel chaos

CHAOS: Shane Ross has ruled out getting involved in strike
CHAOS: Shane Ross has ruled out getting involved in strike
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The Government has been warned it will be forced to intervene in Bus Eireann's dispute with drivers because the company cannot be wound up without the approval of TDs and Senators.

In a letter sent to members over the weekend, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said it was preparing to resume strike action targeting all Bus Eireann depots and offices.

The union has warned the demonstrations will continue until the dispute is ultimately resolved.

Bus Eireann is expected to hold a board meeting tomorrow and union chiefs are bracing themselves for the announcement of €12m worth of pay cuts as the company looks to ward off the threat of insolvency.

The 1986 Transport Act states the winding up of Bus Eireann must be endorsed by the Dail and the Seanad. However, it will be difficult to generate support to kill off a service considered vital to rural communities. Transport Minister Shane Ross has so far ruled out getting involved in the dispute.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said the Government could save jobs by funnelling previous profits from the 2000s back in to the company.

"Bus Eireann ploughed €40m plus of commercial profits back into PSO (Public Service Obligation) bus services, thereby allowing the State to divert that money to other areas of the economy," Mr O'Leary said.

"Surely it is reasonable for workers to suggest that some of those profits should now be invested in a potential solution to the current crisis."

Siptu and NBRU members are now preparing for an all-out strike with pickets set to be mounted following the breakdown of talks between drivers and Bus Eireann at the Workplace Relations Commission last week.

The NBRU wrote to its members this weekend to say the company was "offside" and pickets would be placed at Bus Eireann sites across the country as soon as any cuts were announced.

"If and when the new management regime at Bus Eireann unilaterally impose cuts to terms and conditions, we will immediately place official strike pickets on all depots at which Bus Eireann carries out its business, inclusive of operational and administration activities," said the letter.

"There will be absolutely no deviation or movements of pickets, temporarily or otherwise, from any of those locations until such time as the dispute has ended."

Bus Eireann said difficult decisions would have to be made if it was going to survive past May.

A spokeswoman said the company would not comment on potential cuts until it had consulted staff.

"Bus Eireann management are carefully considering and finalising several options to address the financial solvency of the company."

Sunday Independent

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