Bus union accuses NTA of 'trying to keep hands clean' in routes dispute
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has been accused of "attempting to keep its hands clean" in the bitter row with unions over the tendering of bus routes.
Dermot O'Leary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) claimed the NTA was trying to "extricate" itself from privatisation plans while, at the same time, privatising bus routes "at the Government's behest".
"Today was an exercise in the NTA attempting to keep their hands clean, whilst at the same time having all the authority with no responsibility," he said.
His comments came after NTA chief executive Anne Graham rejected claims that routes were being privatised.
Members of the NBRU and SIPTU will hold two 48-hour work stoppages on May 1 and 2 and again on May 15 and 16 in a row over plans to put out to tender 10pc of publicly operated bus routes. The unions are also planning a three-day strike on May 29, 30 and 31.
Ms Graham appealed to the unions to call off their actions and engage in discussions at the Labour Relations Commission.
"These tendered routes are not being privatised - that would be about transfer of ownership and loss of public control, which isn't the case here at all," Ms Graham said.
It has also emerged that drivers would be able to maintain their working conditions should they move to any private firm which was to win the tender. Buses may also be transferred to successful companies while even more routes could be opened up to tender in 2019.
Mr O'Leary responded by saying that taking services from a public company and giving them to a private company "was one of the fundamental cornerstones associated with privatisation".
He dismissed the pleas of the NTA to return to discussions and accused it of "spinning and obfuscation". The strikes will cost Bus Éireann up to €5m.