Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Ministerial magic wand' won't solve bitter bus dispute

Bus Éireann strikers and supporters at the demonstration outside Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Bus Éireann strikers and supporters at the demonstration outside Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Paul Melia and Gavin White

Transport Minister Shane Ross has refused to intervene in the Bus Éireann dispute, saying a "ministerial magic wand" would not resolve the impasse between management and unions that has left 110,000 commuters without a service for the past six days.

Workers from the public transport companies took to Dublin's streets in support of their striking colleagues, with some 50 Dublin Bus workers and another 15 from Irish Rail joining a march from O'Connell Street to the Dáil yesterday.

Train driver Bernard McDonnell said he joined the protest as "transport is a public service, not a private business".

"We're getting to a stage where workers are worse off than people on social welfare with some getting medical cards and rent allowance," he said.

Workers across the CIÉ group of companies are fearful that any changes to terms and conditions in Bus Éireann will be extended to the other companies.

Union sources said that pressure was mounting for Dublin Bus and Irish Rail workers to join their colleagues in mounting industrial action, with leaders saying they would engage in talks with Bus Éireann management if there were no pre-conditions.

Read More: Bus Éireann to cut 300 jobs as workers mount indefinite all-out strike

The company said it would also engage in "time-limited talks" in relation to changes in work practices and achieving efficiencies. The strike, which began on Friday, is costing the firm €500,000 a day. It lost some €9m last year and is "heading towards insolvency".

But addressing the Dáil Transport Committee, Mr Ross said he would not intervene in the dispute and that he had provided the company with €230m last year to cover the cost of operations and capital works.

"There are those on the committee who believe that a ministerial magic wand can resolve an industrial relations dispute," he said. "The two main reasons (why I won't get involved) is we have institutions of the State (the Labour Court and WRC) set up with an extraordinarily good record which have addressed over 1,000 disputes. My only reason for participating would be because it might be perceived as bringing taxpayers' money into the talks and I'm not doing that."

He added his department was at an advanced stage of negotiations to secure additional money for the free travel scheme, which has been under-funded in recent years and which would boost revenues in the CIÉ group of companies.

Irish Independent

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