Monday 19 March 2018

Shops forced to close early as bus strike cripples city

Retailers lose out on business as thousands opt to stay at home

Pay row: Dublin bus strikers will strike for a further 11 days
Pay row: Dublin bus strikers will strike for a further 11 days
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Retailers lashed out at striking Dublin Bus drivers yesterday as shops were left empty on what was described as the "quietest Saturday" the city has ever seen.

Business owners in the city centre blamed the ongoing industrial action for a huge plunge in business, with sales in some stores down by 60pc.

Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) chief executive David Fitzsimons called for an immediate resolution to be found in the dispute.

"Retailers are recording sales declines of between 25pc and 60pc with some retailers closing their stores early in the afternoon," said Mr Fitzsimons.

On a day that shopkeepers described as the "quietest Saturday ever", thousands of shoppers avoided the city centre as a row between Dublin Bus management and staff over pay escalated into a sixth day of strike action.

The strikes have cost Dublin Bus more than €4m so far.

"Dublin retailers have had a lot to contend with in recent months, including the Luas Cross City construction works and the lack of visitor coach parking facilities in the city. When you are talking to large national retail chains who are considering closing their Dublin stores early, you know that the situation is bleak."

Drivers went on strike in pursuit of a 15pc pay increase earlier this month. Workers at the company previously rejected an 8.25pc pay rise suggested by the Labour Court.

A further 11 days of strike action are planned for the coming weeks. Staff will strike on Tuesday and Wednesday before a third day of industrial action on Saturday, the day Dublin face Mayo in the All Ireland final replay.

"An immediate solution needs to be found and Minister Shane Ross needs to take a lead in resolving the matter," said Mr Fitzsimons.

"The matter is creating some embarrassment, with one international retailer stating that this situation would never be experienced in any other market they trade in, and the matter has led them to rethink their investment strategy for Ireland."

Meanwhile, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has lashed out at Minister for Transport Shane Ross and his Independent Alliance colleagues for failing to back drivers at Bus Eireann.

Staff there are to be balloted for standby strike action in the event of the company introducing structural changes.

Mr Ross has denied that he conveyed any agreement to a Bus Eireann plan that would see its Expressway service being separated to another subsidiary, cutting pay and conditions and sub-contracting routes to make €7m savings.

The Transport Minister is already in the spotlight over comments that he would not be a "sugar daddy on a white horse with a cheque book" to resolve the Dublin Bus dispute.

Mr Ross was met with further scorn after it was revealed Bus Eireann wants to reduce the number of full-time staff at Expressway by up to 150.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary yesterday said Mr Ross's Independent Alliance colleagues have a duty to the staff at Bus Eireann and the communities they serve.

"It would be unconscionable to think that politicians whose natural habitat is to the left of the political spectrum would support such a draconian attack, led, it would appear, by one of their allies in the Independent Alliance, on the livelihoods of 800-plus workers in a State-owned company.

"Supporting a Thatcherite-style attack on the terms and conditions of semi-State employees is surely outside the range of the moral compass of these left-leaning TDs.

"Minister Ross's Independent Alliance colleagues in Government have a responsibility to the staff at Bus Éireann," Mr O'Leary concluded.

Sunday Independent

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