Monday 24 October 2016

Ross has not met unions who will bring chaos to the capital

Commuter misery while minister 'at sea'

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Pic Tom Burke
Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Pic Tom Burke

Transport Minister Shane Ross took four months to meet with bosses from Dublin Bus - and has yet to meet with unions spearheading industrial action over pay.

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Despite the looming chaos for commuters, the minister has also failed to meet Irish Rail or Bus Éireann since taking office, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Around 400,000 people are set to be affected from 9pm tonight when bus services in the capital stop ahead of a two-day strike, tomorrow and Friday.

Despite this, he described the transport section of his work as a "doddle" compared to the sport portfolio at the weekend.

After taking office at the start of May, Mr Ross was heavily briefed on the likelihood of industrial action at Dublin Bus, where 3,364 employees want pay increases of not less than 3.8pc per year.

He was also warned that similar problems are festering at Bus Éireann, while Irish Rail is in dispute with workers over pay and the proposed introduction of a new 10-minute Dart service.

But it has now emerged that Mr Ross only met Dublin Bus CEO Ray Coyne and chairman Ultan Courtney for the first time eight days ago.

Separately, he cancelled an introductory meeting with the management from Bus Éireann last week due to the EU Commission's decision on the Apple tax case.

And his first meeting with Irish Rail is set for tomorrow - a full four months and two days after taking office.

Read more: Uber offering half price taxi fares...and everything else you need to know ahead of Dublin Bus strikes

Read more: 'No option' other than stopping services on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's strike - Dublin Bus

In the same period Mr Ross's diary shows that he regularly spends Fridays attending constituency events in Dublin Rathdown and has held meetings with members of the Independent Alliance about local issues such as the cycle greenway in Athlone. Fianna Fáil's transport spokesperson Robert Troy claimed Mr Ross's lack of urgency in familiarising himself with the companies shows he is "interested in everything but his portfolio".

The minister has met with CIÉ - but Mr Troy said that the fact he hasn't met the individual companies under his supervision shows he "doesn't realise the issues facing them".

The Longford/Westmeath TD, who has received briefings from the transport bodies as well as the key unions Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), said the minister is "just totally at sea".

"We've had no sense of direction or vision from the major stakeholder, the Minister for Transport," he added.

In response to a series of questions relating to his agenda, the Department of Transport last night replied: "The Minister has met CIÉ and Dublin Bus and is due to meet Irish Rail and Bus Éireann shortly.

"Since assuming office the Minister continues to be briefed fully by his Department on all key aspects of CIÉ's business activities including industrial relations matters."

Mr Ross has had ample warning that strikes were possible.

As well as the briefing notes prepared for Mr Ross by his officials, the General Secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O'Leary, wrote to him on June 10 last.

Mr O'Leary told the Irish Independent that while he would afford the minister a "settling-in period" it is now "imperative that Mr Ross should provide leadership in finding a resolution to this dispute".

Irish Independent

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