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Sunday 22 October 2017

Thousands of passengers facing chaos as strikers get support from Dublin Bus and Irish Rail drivers

Bus Éireann staff on strike outside Busáras in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Bus Éireann staff on strike outside Busáras in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Anne-Marie Walsh

Public transport passengers face severe disruption this week as Dublin Bus and Irish Rail drivers plan to stay out of work in support of their Bus Éireann colleagues during an all-out strike.

Sources revealed industrial action is set to escalate as workers at all three CIÉ companies may attend a protest at the Dáil on Wednesday when Transport Minister Shane Ross is due to appear before an Oireachtas committee.

It is understood that workers are considering a protest as a show of solidarity with those on strike at Bus Éireann over its decision to impose cuts that would reduce their earnings without agreement.

Unions have claimed that changes to work practices that are being imposed will cut pay by up to 30pc.

Bus Éireann wants €12m in payroll cuts as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan that it will present to its board today, as it faces the threat of insolvency by May.

It will discuss a management plan to cut 300 jobs through a voluntary redundancy programme. However, the company could go bust within a fortnight as it has roughly €7m in cash reserves but is losing €500,000 a day during the strike.

Some Irish Rail drivers took unofficial action on the first day of the strike last Friday by refusing to pass pickets at shared depots, hitting intercity services.

Complex

It is also understood that they failed to show up to work at a depot in Cork in solidarity with colleagues from Bus Éireann who turned up ahead of shifts.

But so far, their colleagues at Dublin Bus have not taken supportive action, while school bus drivers will not take a decision until later this week.

Services ground to a halt on Friday as the 2,600-strong workforce mounted an indefinite all-out strike. Siptu transport organiser Willie Noone said Mr Ross should appoint an industrial relations troubleshooter to help resolve the complex dispute as he said there were too many staff to reach agreement on efficiencies within a very short time frame.

He said a voluntary redundancy plan was the only solution if efficiencies meant there was a surplus of staff, but it must not be funded by cuts to earnings.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Irish Rural Link, Seamus Boland, said it had been inundated with phone calls from passengers who were unsure how they could travel to work during the strike. He said many people were concerned that rail services would be hit again.

Mr Boland said he had seen a young man plead with a bus driver on Citylink to get home on a bus last Friday, which passed many passengers afterwards on the side of the road because it was too full.

"I don't know how they managed," he said last night. "One couple got on with a bus pass and it never occurred to them that they should pay, but the driver was very decent and waved them on.

"There is a lot of anger and people are trying to figure out what way they're going to travel.

"It's still not clear tonight whether trains will be running tomorrow. People need to get to work somehow. I've to be in Dublin for meetings in the morning from Tullamore on the Galway train, and there's no clarity about whether it's coming.

"It's a vital service. It's not just workers at Tesco that have gone on strike. Those who use it don't have a lot of choice."

He said he expected traffic to be congested today as many people arranged lifts to get to appointments.

Solidarity TDs this morning said Bus Eireann should hire more workers than promote redundancy packages.

Deputy Mick Barry said: "Last week we heard the IDA state that it costs them €10,500 to create a job and that it costs Connect Ireland €4000 to do the same. The same Government that funds the IDA and Connect Ireland stands idly by while mass redundancies are planned in the semi state sector. The double standard is glaring."

Irish Independent

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