Wednesday 21 February 2018

Minister facing court over privatisation of bus service

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

TRANSPORT Minister Paschal Donohoe faces being hauled to courts over the Government's controversial plans to privatise 10pc of the country's bus routes.

The National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU) has put both the minister and the National Transport Authority (NTA) on formal notice of its plans to launch a High Court challenge.

In the first case of its kind, the National Bus and Railway Union said it is preparing to take the minister to court in order, they say, to protect thousands of jobs of CIE workers.

The union of transport workers has warned Mr Donohoe that the approach being taken by the Government could result in both Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus "no longer existing" after 2019.

The latest crisis facing Mr Donohoe centres around the Government's decision to allow the NTA to tender for the operation of 10pc of routes currently being run by the State companies.

Talks at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) broke down last month as the National Bus and Railway Union and Siptu balloted their members on potential strike action.

The proposals by the National Transport Authority would mean several Dublin Bus routes put out for tender, as well as commuter services from Dublin to Tullamore, Portlaoise and Kildare and some routes within Waterford City.

Mr Donohoe has claimed that the measures will improve services and save taxpayer money. However, the unions insist the move will open the door for a campaign of privatisation, put jobs at risk and worsen workers' conditions.

Mr Donohoe has said the legislation underpinning the measures had been "carefully crafted" in accordance with EU law.

The legislation allowed the NTA to renew Bus Eireann's and Dublin Bus's direct award contracts, subject to allowing for tendering of 10pc of the public service obligation bus routes, he added.

However, these direct award contracts expire in 2019, after which the unions say further privatisation of routes are likely to take place unless these plans are changed.

In a letter to Mr Donohoe, seen by the Sunday Independent, NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said 10,000 jobs are at risk.

"We are concerned that even where Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann are providing a first class service, there exists a substantial legal risk that if any other company could show to the National Transport Authority that it could also provide an adequate service, then the NTA could find itself in the position where it is unable, as a matter of law, to continue any direct award to Dublin Bus/Bus Eireann whatsoever.

"If this situation is not remedied, our members face the very strong probability, that as a matter of law, Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann may not exist after 2019," Mr O'Leary added.

A spokesman for Mr Donohoe said he is "disappointed" by the threat and is now taking legal advice.

Sunday Independent

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