Sunday 18 March 2018

Transport union warns Ross to cut out 'sermons'

SIPTU boss Jack O'Connor has already said Mr Ross is a person that he would not agree with on very much
SIPTU boss Jack O'Connor has already said Mr Ross is a person that he would not agree with on very much "apart from agreeing that the world is round" (Picture: Tom Burke) Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Kevin Doyle and Anne Marie Walsh

The leader of one of the country's main transport unions has warned that Shane Ross will have to drop his "predilection for sermonising" now he is in government.

The newly appointed Minister for Transport is facing into a summer of discontent with Luas workers on the picket line again today and Irish Rail facing potential strike action over plans to increase DART services. Other industrial issues are also bubbling away at CIE and Dublin Bus.

Mr Ross has been highly critical in the past of many of the State's unions and the companies they represent, describing Irish Rail as a "monopolistic quango" and CIE as nothing more than a "tax collector".

However, the General Secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU), Dermot O'Leary, has told the Irish Independent that it's time for Mr Ross to change his attitude to trade unions.

"I seem to recall the new Minister making positively glowing comments about 'Fingers' Fingleton and a certain Mr FitzPatrick of Anglo Irish fame once upon a time, demonstrating that even the high and mighty sometimes get it so, so wrong," he said.

Referring to the Minister's often acerbic column in the 'Sunday Independent', Mr O'Leary added: "One can only hope that the Minister will leave his predilection for sermonising in Independent House and acknowledge that diversity of opinion and perhaps even some expertise resides within the ranks of those who work in public transport, who, along with all stakeholders, including the NTA and the Department, should be involved in an open and transparent debate on public transport provision. Perhaps the Minister can facilitate such a debate?"

SIPTU boss Jack O'Connor has already said Mr Ross is a person that he would not agree with on very much "apart from agreeing that the world is round".

It comes as Luas drivers altered plans for their strike days next month in order to avoid disrupting students during the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams.

Initially, SIPTU had planned to stop morning trams on June 8, 9 and 10, which is the first three days of the exams.

However, they will now move the stoppage to between 6pm and 10pm instead. Tens of thousands of commuters are also set to be hit by stoppages on May 20, 26 and 27.

However, there was one piece of good news for Mr Ross yesterday when the NBRU agreed to suspend a ballot for industrial action by DART workers after Irish Rail said it would attend talks with the Workplace Relations Commission today.

The two parties are in a dispute over plans for a 10-minute DART service and whether that will include extra productivity.

Mr O'Leary said: "In suspending our ballot for industrial action we are sending a clear message to the company and the new Minister that the modus operandi of choice in the NBRU is to engage, discuss and negotiate. Whilst engaging in industrial action is a fundamental right, it is very much a last resort."

Meanwhile, the head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Liam Doran, said Mr Ross will have a lot to learn about dealing with workers.

Asked if he was glad he had not been given the Public Expenditure and Reform portfolio, which deals with public service pay, Mr Doran said: "The reality of life is out there and ministers have to deal with the reality rather than the ideal. Workers have the right to be organised and any minister is going to have to deal with that reality."

Irish Independent

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