Commuters are anxiously awaiting the result of the Siptu bus workers' vote next Tuesday and Wednesday on whether the membership still supports strike action should Dublin Bus attempt to implement its cost-cutting proposals.
The Sunday Independent has been told by transport sources that this week's ballot "is finely balanced''.
The decision to hold a second ballot has led to speculation that the Siptu hierarchy are trying to retreat without losing face. The majority of Siptu workers within the company have voted Yes, so they're trying to deal with that scenario''. Last week, the union was starkly told by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Alan Kelly that there was "no basis for further negotiations or interventions as all avenues have been exhausted".
But whilst sources said "it does seem strange that they would have a second ballot on this'', Siptu claimed that whilst the earlier 51 per cent to 49 per cent vote in favour of rejection was still valid, a new vote was justified by the "changed and serious nature of the circumstances that are now in existence".
The long-running row led to a three-day strike in August as management aims to save about €11m. NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary has said his union would continue to fight against any plans to privatise 10pc of bus routes in the city.
Proposals on cost-saving at the company were drawn up by former Siptu national organiser Noel Dowling and management consultant Ultan Courtney. The dispute has also involved a deal being brokered in the Labour Court and accepted by all other Dublin Bus workers except the drivers.
Last week, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and his junior minister Alan Kelly publicly urged the unions to take the overall results of ballots among drivers and push ahead with the deal.
The ministers said the unions had been made aware and accepted that the deal on offer was the best that could be achieved.
"There is no other solution to the financial challenges facing the company," they said.
The company wants to slash €15m from its annual operating costs, including a reduction in overtime and holiday allowances for staff.
The semi-State company said the savings were necessary due to the ongoing recession and declining passenger numbers, which mean an annual revenue loss of €49m a year.
Under the proposals, overtime and other premium payments will be reduced, as well as allowance of annual leave. Management and clerical staff, meanwhile, will have to work a longer working week.