Thursday 14 December 2017

'Distractions' are keeping Ross from bus dispute

Union says Independent Alliance turmoil is not helping resolve strike

Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Tom Burke
Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Tom Burke
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Cabinet upheaval is distracting Transport Minister Shane Ross and preventing him from resolving the Dublin Bus pay dispute, according to the National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU).

The union criticised junior minister John Halligan for using up his Independent Alliance colleague's time to push a personal agenda and distract Mr Ross.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said it is "farcical" that Mr Ross spent a large portion of last week trying to convince Mr Halligan to stay in government while more than 400,000 commuters faced chaos in the capital.

Unions are not expecting a resolution in the pay dispute before further strike action is taken next Thursday and Friday, with communication channels closed between unions, Dublin Bus and the Government.

"Nobody has been talking to us directly or through backchannels," said Mr O'Leary.

"The silence is deafening.

"My understanding is that the minister spent many hours talking to John Halligan this week, who is having his own difficulties in government at the moment.

"The public will look at a situation where Shane Ross, an Independent minister, spent hours trying to convince another Independent to stay in government and support Fine Gael.

"I would have thought if he had spent a fraction of that time used trying to persuade a colleague to stay in government on the bus dispute, we might be further down the road in trying to resolve it."

The transport chaos of Thursday and Friday, when bus commuters were forced to find alternative travel arrangements, is likely to be repeated this week.

Drivers went on strike in pursuit of a 15pc pay increase. Workers at the company previously rejected an 8.25pc pay rise suggested by the Labour Court.

Further strike action is scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday this week, with two further strikes planned for the following Friday and Saturday.

Siptu organiser John Murphy said the unions will meet on Thursday to discuss the possibility of an all-out strike.

"If the first efforts don't work out it is likely we will have an all-out strike. We don't know yet but it will be discussed on Thursday," he said.

"The likelihood is that if there is no movement by Thursday we will see where we are. People seem to be rowing in behind the dispute so it is likely that the route we will take will be spoken about then."

Mr O'Leary said all-out strike action was an option after these planned disputes but it was not something he would like to see: "We take our lead from the lads on the picket line. The (Transport) Minister, coming from South Dublin, is in a constituency that has various options around public transport in terms of the Luas, Dart and the bus.

"There are people living in the greater Dublin area, North County Dublin in particular, who are terribly affected. Other politicians out there who are in government need to take a good hard look at themselves," he added.

Sunday Independent

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