Wednesday 23 October 2019

Travel chaos fear as bus union threatens 'rolling-action' strike

Allison Bray

UP to 70,000 bus passengers are facing travel chaos if Bus Eireann drivers and other workers go ahead with threatened strike action tomorrow.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) is threatening to set up pickets and engage in "rolling action", starting at midnight tonight, after a majority of members voted in favour of industrial action to protest at cost cuts, which the state bus company insists are necessary for its survival.

In a ballot of 820 members, 83pc rejected the cuts – including €5m of reductions in premium pay and overtime that were recommended by the Labour Court – and voted in favour of strike action.

However, because the NBRU did not give seven days' notice of industrial action, as is required by law, it remains to be seen if its sister unions at Bus Eireann – including SIPTU's 650 members and the Transport Salaried and Staff Association's 250 clerical and administrative workers – will join in tomorrow's action.

Spokesmen for both affiliate unions last night declined to say if their members would join any picket lines. However, their members are currently being balloted and those unions will await the results of the ballots on May 16 before deciding if they will officially take part in any industrial action.

NBRU general secretary Michael Faherty said his union's members were prepared to down tools and he believed that others in the State's CIE group of companies would follow suit.

He said: "From the feedback we're getting from Bus Atha Cliath (Dublin Bus) and Iarnod Eireann (Irish Rail) workers, it's clear that they're not going to sit on the sidelines and watch this continue for too long."

Mr Faherty has not confirmed what form – if any – the industrial action will take, other than saying that it could be a series of rolling strikes.

Bus Eireann spokesman Andrew McLindon said the company would try to provide service as best as it could.

However, he added that because the strike was "unofficial and illegal", the company didn't know how many drivers and other workers would take part in it tomorrow, if any.

Passengers

The dispute – which could affect around 40,000 weekend bus passengers and up to 70,000 weekday passengers – prompted both Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte yesterday to urge the unions at Bus Eireann to accept the recommendations of the Labour Court to ensure the future viability of the company.

Meanwhile, Jim McGinley, chairman of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council, which represents over 50 private bus coach operators, said that his members' phones had been ringing off the hook as passengers tried to book alternative transport.

He told the Irish Independent: "The expressway network won't be too much of an issue. It is covered by the private sector and we can put on extra capacity."

At Busaras in Dublin, passenger Karl Browne (31), who commutes from outside Kells in Co Meath to his job at the Central Bank, said he may be forced to use up a week of annual leave next week.

He added: "If there are no commuter buses running next week, I won't be able to make it to work."

Irish Independent

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