'Laissez-faire' Ross ignoring problem, says Fianna Fáil
Transport Minister Shane Ross has been accused of having a "laissez-faire" attitude to his brief and "ignoring a problem" as Irish Rail workers go on strike.
Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy said today's action was the fourth strike by a public transport company during Mr Ross's time in office.
"If nothing else typifies his laissez-faire attitude to his brief, well then, that surely does," Mr Troy said.
Up to 155,000 people are set to be affected by the disruption across the country today.
A spokesperson for Mr Ross responded to the criticism last night, insisting the Government could not and should not get involved in industrial disputes.
"The Labour Court and the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] were established for this very purpose and Minister Ross again urges all parties to engage with these bodies," a statement said.
Luas drivers were already taking industrial action when Mr Ross entered office last year, with further strikes following at Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, with all three later resolved.
Mr Troy said the current row at Irish Rail was "regrettable" and urged all parties to return to talks. He claimed it was "no coincidence" that there had been a growing trend of industrial unease since Mr Ross came to office and accused him of having a strategy during disputes of "ignoring a problem".
He said this would not deliver a solution that "protects workers, the taxpayer and above all, passengers".
Mr Troy also hit out at the failure to establish a stakeholder forum aimed at avoiding the escalation of disputes, saying it had been promised after the industrial action at Bus Éireann.
"I strongly believe had that forum been established when promised, that it could have prevented the industrial action which is set to take place," Mr Troy said.
Mr Ross's spokesperson said the process of setting up the stakeholder forum had begun, but that it had been frequently pointed out that the proposed dialogue could not take place "under the threat of, or during, industrial action".
The statement said Mr Ross looked forward to proceeding with the forum at the earliest possible date after the strike was settled.
It said he met the unions to discuss the forum in July, but to date had received just one of the requested submissions from them on the format of the forum and the issues they wanted covered.
The statement also said Mr Ross would "welcome any suggestions that Opposition spokespersons might have" and that he would encourage them to contribute "at their earliest convenience".
Mr Ross last night renewed his call for the parties in the Irish Rail dispute to engage in constructive negotiations.
He said it was important for the travelling public, staff and the company that the dispute was resolved "in a realistic, fair and sustainable manner".