Thursday 22 February 2018

Public transport passengers facing triple strike threat

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the threat of a school bus strike was rising Photo: Collins
Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the threat of a school bus strike was rising Photo: Collins

Anne-Marie Walsh

Public transport passengers may face a triple strike after a union for Bus Éireann workers warned that their colleagues at Irish Rail and Dublin Bus will take whatever action is necessary to support them.

Siptu confirmed that it will finalise arrangements for a strike ballot at Dublin Bus at a meeting next Monday in a disagreement over pensions. It said the ballot was likely to be "overwhelmingly supported". The union said a date for the start of industrial action would be decided shortly afterwards.

The National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) said it will also ballot its Dublin Bus members for industrial action up to an all-out strike next week.

Bus Éireann passengers already face the threat of an indefinite all-out strike from February 20 after management warned it would impose cuts to workers' earnings worth €12m.

Its acting chief executive Ray Hernan has warned the company could be insolvent before the end of the year.

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the threat of a school bus strike was also growing. He said there was a "clear consensus" among Dublin Bus and Irish Rail workers to show solidarity with colleagues in Bus Éireann at a meeting yesterday.

"The representatives of our members in Irish Rail and Dublin Bus have indicated that they are willing to take whatever appropriate actions are necessary to support their colleagues in Bus Éireann, as they all are members of CIE companies and have corresponding conditions of employment and work locations," he said.

The pensions row has the potential to unite unions at all the CIE companies in industrial action as they are currently involved in negotiations on deficits in the schemes.

In addition, staff may not pass pickets during a Bus Éireann strike at locations where there are shared depots or locations such as Broadstone in Dublin where garages for Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann drivers are side-by-side.

Siptu has accused Dublin Bus of reneging on a deal that was struck last year to halt a series of strikes in pursuit of a pay rise.

The agreement said that pay increases - worth 11.25pc over three years or 3.75pc a year - would be counted into pension calculations from this month.

But the unions said the company had not upheld its side of the deal.

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann claimed that absenteeism was around twice the national average and sick payments had jumped by 24pc in the past fortnight.

It said given the current financial crisis, any work which attracted premium payments, such as weekends, would not be given to those who reported off duty due to illness for three weeks.

In a letter to Mr Hernan in response to the measure, general secretary of the NBRU Dermot O'Leary accused the company of provocation and intimidation. He described the sanction as a naked act of aggression.

Referring to Mr Hernan's recent appointment as acting CEO, he said it was obvious to union officials that he had received a "crash course" in the day-to-day operations at Bus Éireann. He described the cuts to be imposed from Monday week as tantamount to a declaration of war.

"We will of course meet such a declaration with the notified all-out strike action to coincide with your unprecedented assault, and come February 20 workers will themselves provide a crash course for the uninitiated, in relation to how far people are prepared to go to resist this Irish Ferries-style race to the bottom attack on moderate terms and conditions," he said.

Irish Independent

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