Thursday 23 November 2017

Bank holiday bus drivers' strike to cost us €3m, say city retailers

Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief Gina Quin
Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief Gina Quin
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

Bus drivers are being urged to "re-engage" in the negotiating process over the proposed privatisation of 10pc of routes, as businesses estimate that one day of strike action could cost up to €3m.

The warning came as Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe refused to budge over the time-frame of the tendering process and said he is "open to anything that we can do now in the intervening period".

Up 2,500 drivers are expected to take part in industrial action on May 1.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) announced on Monday that it is planning a day of action on May 1, International Workers Day.

This is set to include a two-hour work stoppage, as drivers in the union from both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann participate in nationwide demonstrations between 11am and 1pm.

But, senior sources have indicated they are likely to "ramp" this up to a full-day strike.

Retail group Dublin Town said this move could cost the city as much as €3m on the busy bank holiday weekend.

Aside from the potential impact on tourists and workers, retailers say that large numbers of shoppers use the bus and every lost customer will cost an average of €63.

"We had hoped it wouldn't happen," said Richard Guiney, Dublin Town CEO.

"If the bus isn't available, a number will choose to not make the trip, so it is obviously of serious concern for us. The withdrawal of an important service like the bus is a very serious move and it would be detrimental for the city."

Siptu members in both companies have also indicated they want action, but the union said they will "consider substantial industrial action" if their concerns are not "adequately addressed at meetings with other stakeholders" by April 24.

Both unions left talks with the Department of Transport, the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the State-owned transport companies at the Labour Relations Commission last month. The long-running dispute stems from Government proposals to open 10pc of routes up to public tender in order to comply with a EU directive.

Dermot O'Leary, the NBRU general secretary, said yesterday that "nobody has been in touch" with him and that "as far as we are concerned, there was no negotiations".

His main concerns centre around employee terms and conditions and fears that further routes could be privatised.

"The NTA made it clear at the outset that they were not there to negotiate this at the Labour Relations Commission. As a result of that, we responded in time, saying that if you are not going to negotiate our terms, we are not necessarily going to negotiate the introduction of your policy either," Mr O'Leary added.

Transport Minister Mr Donohoe said he would ensure that employees terms and conditions would be maintained, adding that it was a "real pity that commuters will be facing disruption".

Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief Gina Quin (left) said the group was "strongly encouraging all parties to get back around the table to find a resolution with the LRC".

"A functioning public transport system is essential to the smooth-running of the city. This possible strike action comes at a time when public transport usage is on the increase," she said.

Both Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus said they remain available and involved in the discussions.

Irish Independent

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