Saturday 18 November 2017

All-out strike will not draw Ross into bus dispute

Neutral: Shane Ross Picture: Tom Burke
Neutral: Shane Ross Picture: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle and Chai Brady

Transport Minister Shane Ross has said he will not get involved in the Bus Éireann dispute even if workers stage an all-out strike.

Mr Ross said calls from some of the parties involved is based on nothing other than an attempt to force him "to produce the chequebook".

"I've taken the position all along that it's not up to me. It would be wrong for a minister to become involved in an industrial dispute and I intend to stay out of the industrial dispute as long as it goes on," Mr Ross told the Irish Independent.

"What I'd like to see and I'm urging is that both parties get together."

Asked why he won't intervene, Mr Ross said: "All parties want me to be in the room because they want me to produce the chequebook. I'm not going to do that. That's the only reason they want me there."

But Mr Ross said he "very much" hopes a strike will be averted.

"It would be awful for the taxpayer and for the travelling public, and indeed for the workforce as well. I'm very concerned that there shouldn't be one, of course I am."

Earlier this week the Independent Alliance minister was described by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as a "Pontius Pilate" character who is hiding from the looming chaos at Bus Éireann.

Mr Ross described the Fianna Fáil attacks as "nonsense".

"It's not my business to be involved in an industrial dispute. I've made that absolutely clear. After the industrial dispute is over I'm very happy to talk to all parties about policy matters and will certainly do so," he said.

Trade unions have also called on the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority (NTA) to intervene.

Mr Ross has been accused of not understanding the issues at hand for rural commuters by unions.

The letter sent to the NTA and the Department of Transport on behalf of the trade unions said: "We note that there have been several requests, from right across the political spectrum, for the minister to become involved in facilitating a route towards a potential solution to this crisis.

"The response, or lack of response to-date has been deafening."

The company has said it could be insolvent by May if it does not reduce its pay bill by €12m. Last year the company's financial losses were between €8m and €9m.

Management wants to make savings on overtime, spare driver arrangements, hiring buses, sick pay, bonuses, expenses and flexibility.

Read More: NTA can't guarantee services for passengers on axed routes

Workers have said they are set to lose up to 30pc of pay, while Bus Éireann says the average pay reduction will be closer to 10pc.

Three routes - Dublin-Clonmel; Athlone-Westport and Dublin-Derry - may also be axed in a bid to save €1.1m.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the NBRU have also warned Bus Éireann of potential court action if the terms and conditions of workers are breached.

"There are two issues, the contract of employment which is obviously very straight forward," Dermot O'Leary, of the National Bus and Rail Union, said.

"The other one is the 1986 Transport Act, which set up Bus Éireann, Irish Rail and Dublin Bus - that's primary legislation.

"There are issues in relation to conflict with that potentially."

Irish Independent

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