Sunday 26 January 2020

New travel chaos on cards as Dublin Bus starts cuts

Passenger journeys have increased by 300,000 to 229.4m
Passenger journeys have increased by 300,000 to 229.4m

Martin Frawley

COMMUTERS face potential travel chaos as Dublin Bus moves ahead with its cost-cutting plan "without delay" despite SIPTU members rejecting compromise proposals.

The ballot result means the two main bus drivers' unions are now split on the plan to reduce costs at the struggling transport provider.

SIPTU, which represents about half of the company's 2,300 drivers, voted 51pc to 49pc against the latest set of proposals, although drivers in the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) backed them by 60pc.

All other staff among the company's 3,500 workforce have accepted the plan, leaving the situation on a knife-edge.

It is understood that the result of the SIPTU ballot hinged on the votes of a tiny number of drivers – as few as a dozen.

STRIKE

Dublin Bus said it would move ahead with the "full implementation" of cutbacks as 55pc of all drivers, and all other grades, have now accepted the Labour Court recommendation.

"An implementation date will be announced shortly," it said.

But SIPTU has previously threatened industrial action if the plan is implemented without agreement. The union has to give at least seven days' notice of action.

Passengers will keenly remember three days of strike action that brought Dublin Bus journeys to a halt in August.

They are also facing average fare hikes of 8pc from December as Dublin Bus grapples with its finances.

The latest set of compromise proposals on the €11.7m cost-cutting plan were drawn up by former union official Noel Dowling and management consultant Ultan Courtney.

The intended cuts were planned to be achieved with changes to drivers' rosters, plus reductions in overtime and premium rates.

The latest compromise proposals recommended that drivers could continue to start their working day in the depot instead of having to travel to their bus for the start of their shift. It also recommended that the company be subject to "binding arbitration" if wage cuts were not reversed after a 19-month period as promised by Dublin Bus.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Alan Kelly, junior minister in the department, urged the unions to take the overall results of ballots among drivers and push ahead with the deal.

The ministers said that the unions had been made aware and accepted that the deal was the best that could be achieved.

"There is no other solution to the financial challenges facing the company," they said.

"Any strike will be prolonged as it is hard to see how it could be resolved given that all the industrial relations processes of the State have already been exhausted, and there is no basis for any further intervention.

"There will be no winners and all sides will be worse off."

Last week, Mr Varadkar said that the future of the company was "stark" if the cost savings were not secured.

John Murphy of SIPTU said it was up to the company to decide whether it wished to enter a negotiation process "which could resolve this dispute without further industrial action and disruption to services".

However, no talks are planned at the moment as all avenues to resolve this dispute have been exhausted.

A report on Dublin Bus by Noel Dowling and Ultan Courtney has warned that the absence of agreement, followed by a lengthy strike could result in an "orderly winddown of Dublin Bus".

Irish Independent

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