Sunday 26 March 2017

Public transport crisis: Bus strikes on hold but more may still follow

Unions call off stoppage today ahead of pay rise talks

Dermot O’Leary: NBRU trusts major progress can be made. Photo: Damien Eagers
Dermot O’Leary: NBRU trusts major progress can be made. Photo: Damien Eagers

Anne-Marie Walsh and Martin Grant

Dublin Bus services will run today and tomorrow after unions called off a 48-hour strike at last-minute talks over a dispute that has brought services to a standstill for six days.

But Saturday's strike that takes place on the day of the All-Ireland Gaelic football final replay and 10 further days of strikes are still set to go ahead unless there is progress at talks on workers' demands for a pay rise.

They want a 15pc pay rise over three years. Unions deferred the two-day stoppage little over three hours before buses were due to stop at 9pm last night.

General secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU), Dermot O'Leary, said his union was placing its trust in the Workplace Relations Commission's assessment that significant progress could be made at talks.

Earlier, Siptu and the NBRU indicated they would call off the work stoppages if the company agreed in principle to give a pay rise above 8.25pc. This pay increase was recommended by the Labour Court, but rejected by their members.

Unions now expect Dublin Bus to make an improved offer.

However, Transport Minister Shane Ross has consistently insisted he will not take out the State's "chequebook" to resolve the dispute.

"The onus is now very much on Dublin Bus to come to the negotiating table and step up to the plate to go significantly beyond what has already been rejected by all of the staff," said Mr O'Leary.

He said the company must work with the unions to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the dispute.

"Falling short is simply not an option for commuters and staff alike," he said.

Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy said the commission had been clear that there was scope to make progress.

"We are happy the WRC has made this initiative and we are very happy the workers will be able to work today and the travelling public will not be discommoded," he said.

However, he sounded a word of caution.

"We have a couple of days to try and fix this," he said. "The other dates that all of the unions have put in the diary remain, starting from Saturday, but our earnest wish is that we don't have to invoke that."

He said there is a responsibility on Dublin Bus to come to the table and make an improvement on the 8.25pc pay rise over three years.

"There's a window of opportunity now, we just hope that Dublin Bus management use it," he said.

The Workplace Relations Commission invited the parties to talks as fears grew that passengers could face the threat of unofficial industrial action at CIE sister companies, Bus Éireann and Irish Rail.

They attended negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission following a weekend invitation in a bid to end the disruptive dispute. Mediators raced against the clock to get unions to call off today's 48-hour strike.

There was a short window for talks as they began at 2pm, while services were due to stop at 9pm ahead of the strike from midnight.

Dublin Bus said it "will continue to engage with all parties at the WRC over the coming days in an effort to find a resolution to this current dispute".

Talks resume at 10am today at Lansdowne House in Dublin.

Minister Ross welcomed the suspension of strikes. "He is cognisant of the relief this will bring to the travelling public, businesses and all those who have been adversely affected by the recent strikes," a statement from his office said.

Irish Independent

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