Friday 24 November 2017

Ross 'doddle' jibe prompts union anger

Commuters look set for 'winter of discontent' if Irish Rail talks fail

NBRU general secretary, Dermot O'Leary Photo: Douglas O'Connor
NBRU general secretary, Dermot O'Leary Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Union chiefs have described as "bizarre" claims by Transport Minister Shane Ross that managing the transport sector has been a "doddle" since taking office.

As over 330,000 passengers face travel chaos after workers at Dublin Bus announced six days of industrial action for later this month, SIPTU assistant divisional organiser, Paul Cullen, says Mr Ross needs to appreciate the scale of the task facing him in the coming months.

"A key issue is the matter of subvention. How is he dealing with that situation?" asked Mr Cullen. "How is he dealing with the fact that subvention has been reduced over a long number of years, while passenger numbers are up? It's a huge brief. I can't understand how it can be a doddle - it's a bizarre comment."

Minister Ross caused surprise on Friday's Late Late Show when he insisted the brief has been easy to manage since taking office.

"Transport has been a doddle, although there are some strikes coming shortly," he said.

NBRU general secretary, Dermot O'Leary, said while the Minister holds a wide-ranging brief, he has a responsibility to "keep the wheels turning" in the transport sector.

"Over the past number of years there's been one dispute after another, and that's no way to run a transport system."

Mr Ross's comments come as commuters face further travel chaos as the country's train drivers have now warned of industrial action this winter.

Union chiefs representing Irish Rail workers have ramped up pressure on management, by threatening to ballot for industrial action, should talks break down in the coming days.

The warning emerged less than a week after Dublin Bus workers announced strike action in a dispute over pay conditions. Workers are set to down tools on September 8, 9, 15, 16, 23 and 24.

The NBRU and SIPTU, representing Irish Rail workers, last month suspended putting a vote to workers to ballot for strike action in order to attend Workplace Relations Commission talks.

Speaking at the time, they stressed that if agreement is not reached on a number of issues, they will be under pressure from members to resolve the dispute with the company on a range of issues, by way of industrial action.

Among the items for discussion are a shorter working week, and issues relating to productivity.

SIPTU instructed members the work-to-rule could include an overtime ban, non-cooperation on roster changes, and a refusal to carry out senior roles or to work in depots other than their own.Now, SIPTU's Paul Cullen has warned talks over the coming days will prove pivotal, on whether they move to ballot workers for industrial action.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Cullen said while progress is being made, further talks will take place early next week.

"The ballot for industrial action is frozen at this point in time. The company will continue to engage with us over the next couple of days and matters have not broken down at this stage.

"We have a proposal on the table at the moment and the company are willing to discuss that proposal. There are a lot of things we have to go through to get over the next couple of days, and get to a point where we'll have some form of a document to put to the drivers. But if these discussions don't come up with some form of joint agreement, then it looks like there will be some form of industrial action.

"We're aiming to have a form of a conclusion by the end of next week."

Mr O'Leary said while significant progress has been made over the past few weeks, the next 10 days will ultimately decide if an agreement can be reached.

"In the event of us not getting to that point, then obviously the string will be pulled in terms of industrial action.

"The issue of rosters will also be looked at over the coming days," he added.

Sunday Independent

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