Friday 15 December 2017

Dublin Bus unions call off weekday strikes at eleventh hour

Dublin Bus services are facing strike disruption
Dublin Bus services are facing strike disruption

Martin Grant and Anne-Marie Walsh

DUBLIN buses will run tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday after unions called of strikes at eleventh hour talks to end the dispute over a pay rise.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) confirmed that it has suspended the 48 hour stoppage in order to engage in intensive discussion to settle the dispute.

However, Saturday's strike that will take place on the day of the All-Ireland replay between Dublin and Mayo is still set to go ahead unless there is progress at talks.

General Secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O'Leary, said his union was placing its trust in the Workplace Relations Commission by suspending the 48-hour strike.

“In agreeing to suspend our member’s industrial action we are placing our trust in the WRC and its assessment, following its separate exploratory discussions with Dublin Bus, that significant progress can be achieved over the next number of days in order to find a resolution to this dispute,” he said.

“The onus is now very much on Dublin Bus to come to the negotiating table and step up to the plate to go significantly beyond what has already been rejected by all of the staff.”

He said the company must work with the unions to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the dispute.

“Falling short is simply not an option for commuters and staff alike," he said.

Earlier, the main unions at the semi-state company indicated they would call off the work stoppages company agreed in principle to give a pay rise above 8.25pc.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union and Siptu have been at talks since 2pm to end the disruptive dispute as 13 more days of strikes are planned.

They attended negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission following a weekend invitation in a bid to end the disruptive dispute that has already halted services for six days.

Officials at the Workplace Relations Commission were racing against the clock to reach an agreement that would prompt unions to call off strikes.

There was a very short window for talks as they began at 2pm, while services were due to stop at 9pm ahead of tomorrow’s strike.

Intense discussions

Speaking outside the Workplace Relations Commission after the talks, Mr O'Leary said unions would enter intense discussions over the next few days to find a resolution to the dispute.

"There is a dispute set for next Saturday which we have not been asked to postpone, and we're not going to postpone," he said.

"There's an opportunity for the employer to come back to the table with the support of those in the department. They will need that support in order to reach a resolution.

"We're quite serious and focused coming in here tomorrow, or however long it takes, to get a resolution to this dispute."

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Owen Reidy, said the commission had been clear that there was scope to make progress.

"All of the five unions have been very clear the only way we can make progress (is) if we can improve upon what was rejected," he said.

"We are happy the WRC has made this initiative and we are very happy the workers will be able to work tomorrow and the travelling public will not be discommoded."

However, he said he would sound a word of caution.

"We have a couple of days to try and fix this," he said. "The other dates that all of the unions have put in the diary remain, starting from Saturday, but our earnest wish is that we don't have to invoke that."

He said there is a responsibility on Dublin Bus to come to the table and make an improvement on an 8.25pc pay rise over three years.

"There's a window of opportunity now, we just hope that Dublin Bus management use it," he said.

"There's a crisis here that it seems others have sleep-walked into.

"It's up to the government to allow Dublin Bus management to do what needs to be done here."

When asked if the company is willing to negotiate an improvement, he responded:

"We hope that's the case, we've always said were prepared to negotiate and compromise and be flexible, and we'd expect the employer to do likewise.

"We made it very clear to the officials in the WRC that we expect that if a set of proposals were to emerge, to get the acceptance of our people, there would have to be some progress on that, and they came back saying they felt there was scope for negotiation.

"We will ultimately find that out in the next 48 (to) 72 hours. Like all these things you have to try and be hopeful.

"To quote the Minister, we won't be a soft touch, but we are prepared to bargain and comprise and we hope the employer is prepared to do likewise. Because unless that happens, this thing will get worse and everybody will suffer.

"We want to use the next few days to try and be creative and engage meaningfully with the employer.

"I do hope though the Government effectively allows the company to negotiate...the government are not a silent actor here, they are responsible ultimately for the funding of public transport.

"Something more fundamental needs to happen in the next two to three days to stave off further action. We hope no further action is needed, we hope everybody comes to the table with clean hands and prepared to work together in partnership.

"I would imagine most people and most observers would say that if the trade unions and the management, with the assistance of the WRC, can't resolve this dispute in the next three days, I think people would question whether we can resolve it at all."

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Shane Ross released a statement welcoming the decision of Dublin Bus drivers to defer strike action.

The statement read: "He is cognisant of the relief this will bring to the travelling public, businesses and all those who have been adversely affected by the recent strikes.

"He appreciates the role played by the WRC in facilitating these negotiations and hopes that all sides are given the appropriate space to arrive at a solution that is fair and achievable."

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