Sunday 20 May 2018

More bus strikes on cards as pay row deadlocked

Further disruptive Dublin Bus strikes are set to go ahead this week
Further disruptive Dublin Bus strikes are set to go ahead this week

Anne-Marie Walsh

Further disruptive Dublin Bus strikes are set to go ahead this week as the company and unions refuse to budge over a 2.75pc a year pay rise.

Dublin Bus and unions say they are willing to attend talks to end the dispute, but neither party is willing to compromise on the wage increase.

The largest union at the company, Siptu, said it would only defer industrial action on Thursday and Friday if the company makes an offer that is "not a million miles" from 5pc.

But a Dublin Bus spokesperson said it will only go above 2.75pc if unions show that any increase would be funded by workers giving extra productivity.

She said the 2.75pc pay rise would cost the company €30m.

Workers have already rejected the 2.75pc a year increase, which was recommended by the Labour Court and would be given for three years.

Siptu official John Murphy said the unions want a bigger flat rate increase that would not include any productivity measures, before they will defer industrial action.

When asked how much of an improvement would have to be made, he said it was open to discussion but could not be "a million miles from 5pc".

He said although a 5pc pay rise would be well above the Luas deal negotiated earlier this year, worth 3.8pc, this would help bridge the gap between bus drivers' and Luas drivers' wages.

Read more: Public is on bus drivers' side - so far - and holding us to ransom is wrong

"It looks likely that the next 48-hour strike will go ahead," he said. "But of course we would accept an invitation to talks.

"If any third party, whether that is the industrial relations institutions or the department, wants to assist the parties, I don't think any of the unions would resist.

"We want to go back to work driving buses around the city."

However, he was pessimistic that the dispute could be resolved this week. "We are not willing to defer action just on an invite," he said.

"Progress would have to be made in serious negotiations on the flat-rate increase before we would consider it."

He said that Siptu would not apologise if its members are among the best-paid bus drivers in the world as this probably reflected a "race to the bottom" in the transport sector as terms and conditions were eroded.

Mr Murphy claimed workers got a lot of public support on radio, in print and on the picket lines during last week's strike.

"People using the buses were coming up and talking to representatives and saying they had heard about the cuts in the last 10 years and felt they were not just looking for more for the sake of looking for more."

The unions are set to meet on Thursday to discuss the possibility of escalating the action that has already caused chaos for over 400,000 passengers a day during the first 48-hour strike last week.

However, Mr Murphy said an all-out strike is unlikely to happen until the existing planned industrial action is played out.

Unions have served notice of a third 48-hour strike on Friday and Saturday week.

Sources at the state mediation bodies were sceptical about intervening at this point.

The Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court are unlikely to get involved until there are clear signs that there might be some prospect of success.

Dublin Bus said it is losing over €600,000 a day during the strike in revenue and National Transport Authority fines, even when wage and fuel savings are factored in.

Irish Independent

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