Millions lost as bus strike crushes the retail sector
Minister warns unions: 'You, not the taxpayer, will pay for the strike'
Hundreds of thousands of people were left stranded without bus services again yesterday as businesses counted the cost of the crippling 48-hour strike.
Lousy weather, with a 'Status Yellow' Met Office rain alert, magnified the impact of the strike and cut footfall in the main shopping areas in Cork and Dublin by more than 20pc yesterday, retail chiefs said.
The under-pressure retail sector, and small business in general, lost millions on Friday and Saturday on what is traditionally one of the busiest bank holidays of the year, according to Sean Murphy of Retail Excellence Ireland. And bus unions plan further strikes later this month
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday warned bus workers that they, not the taxpayer, will have to pay a price for the strike.
"The impact that these strikes will have on the balance sheets of the [bus] companies will be significant, resulting in substantial legacy costs of their own.
"I will not be asking the Irish taxpayer to pay these costs," he told the Sunday Independent.
"This strike was unjustified. All industrial relations concerns, in respect of the terms and conditions of employees at Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, have been dealt with. This was through a commitment given by me earlier in the week that no worker would have to transfer to another company in the event that either company is unsuccessful in winning the tender."
The minister said the damage the unions' action will have on the companies, the economy and the general public was "unprecedented".
However, union leaders yesterday vowed not to "pay a penny" to Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus as both companies signalled their intention to take legal action to recoup millions lost from the two-day strike.
Management from both bus companies issued letters to the two unions, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) and Siptu, informing them of their decision to seek compensation for losses, including reputational damage.
Siptu's Owen Reidy dismissed the threat of legal action as "foolish", adding that it will only lead to heightened tensions among all parties.
"If they take this challenge, we'll meet it head on, and we won't be paying a penny to anybody," he said.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association (ISME) said businesses have been "severely affected" by the strike. ISME CEO Mark Fielding said the timing couldn't have been worse as the economy has just started to show signs of recovery.
"Irish SMEs are only beginning to recover from a disastrous recession. They cannot afford the considerable cost in lost man-hours, trade, and productivity, due to the withdrawal of necessary social and commercial services," he said.
Dublin Bus said two days of strikes has cost €1.2m in lost revenue, not including a fine from the National Transport Authority of €300,000. Bus Eireann estimates the strike cost €1.5m in lost revenue, affecting 250,000 passenger journeys.
Bus drivers are also planning a stoppage for two days on May 15 and 16, and a three-day strike starting on May 29.