Saturday 24 March 2018

Bus strike: Transport Minister appeals for stop to 48-hour strike plans

Mark O'Regan and Louise Kelly

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has said there is no reason for the bus strike to go ahead this weekend, causing chaos for hundreds of thousands of commuters.

Drivers at Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have planned a series of strikes, over the privatisation of routes, which will shut down the network.

"All these matters have been dealt with, because of this the strike should not go ahead," he said this morning.

"Both companies will lose over €10 million euro from this 48-hour strike.

Bus Éireann chief executive Martin Nolan
Bus Éireann chief executive Martin Nolan

"Earlier on this week I made an intervention - any employee in one of these companies that would be tendered out will not be asked to transfer unless they want to.

"What is now proposed is going to cause massive disruption to our country and huge damage to both companies at a time when they're getting back on their feet," he told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.

"Huge efforts have already been made [to stop this strike].

"This strike that could happen tomorrow in 2015 is about something that might happen after 2019."

The minister said he made 'a very substantial intervention' earlier this week and said now is the time for an 'implementation plan to be developed'.

"While I absolutely understand these legitimate concerns, we can't get ourselves to a position where the principals of policy are determined by the people working for the companies."

The minister speaks as it is expected that bank holiday travellers will face transport misery on three fronts - with Irish Rail works and taxi fare increases adding to the chaos caused by the bus strike.

Passengers unable to take the bus may also be inconvenienced by rail works over the weekend, as well as rising taxi fares, which kick in today.

The chief executive of Bus Éireann, Martin Nolan, yesterday said that an 11th-hour deal to avert the strike is yet possible if workers re-entered negotiations with management.

Failure to broker a deal will have "dire financial consequences" for the company and spark widespread public anger, Mr Nolan warned.

"This weekend is one of our busiest of the year. The strike action will have dire financial consequences for our company and Dublin Bus," he said.

However, Mr Nolan insisted the company is making "every effort" to resolve the dispute and stop the strike from going ahead.

"We just need to get back around the table - I know there is a lot of work going on to get that to happen.

"But if we go out and strike I think the public sympathy will disappear fairly quickly - and we live on our reputation.

"We'll be fighting up to the last minute to keep people inside working, rather than outside."

He also reiterated that no staff will be forced to transfer to private sector operators when 10pc of bus routes are put out to private tender.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary told the Irish Independent the union would be prepared to re-enter negotiations with the Labour Relations Commission.

Asked if he believed a last-minute decision to call off strike action was possible, he said: "I don't know. I just do realism - I work on the basis that there's a dispute and it needs to be resolved."

Bus drivers are also currently planning a stoppage for May 15-16, and a three-day strike on May 29, 30 and 31.

This will affect all of Bus Éireann buses, including their local services, but not its school transport. These are separate and operated mostly by contractors.

To add to the weekend public transport commotion, Irish Rail will be carrying out line improvement works on Saturday and Sunday.

The national train service has advised customers travelling from Dublin's Heuston Station to re-check their departure times before travelling.

And taxi fares are set to go up today, increasing by an average of 4pc.

The standard taxi charge (between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday) will drop from €4.10 to €3.60, and will now be €4 for premium periods.

However, the charge per kilometre travelled will increase from €1.03 to €1.10 (€1.40 at premium times), and from €1.45 to €1.75 for journeys running over 15km.

Irish Independent

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