Triple strike threat to bring public transport to complete standstill
The threat of an all-out transport strike now looms as unions warn that bus and rail workers will join forces to bring the country to a complete standstill.
With 15 more strikes planned at Dublin Bus and the prospect of stoppages at Bus Éireann, sources have warned that rail workers will be next to down tools in support.
The threat of a double bus strike is already on the cards after the largest union at Bus Éireann announced a ballot over plans to turn Expressway into a "low-wage bus service".
The company revealed plans to implement new terms and conditions for Expressway workers, separate the business from the rest of Bus Éireann and sub-contract some routes.
The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) accused the company of dropping a bombshell with proposals that "threaten the livelihoods of 800 workers".
Sources said an all-out strike would be most likely if Bus Éireann and Irish Rail staff now joined the picket lines in support of members of their unions at Dublin Bus.
The result could ultimately be a crippling series of rolling strikes or an all-out strike among workers at CIÉ companies.
They could take supportive industrial action of any kind, which could also include work to rule.
Some unions said a series of separate stoppages was more likely due to the sheer number of disputes in play.
But NBRU leader Dermot O'Leary said rail workers "will not tolerate the prospect of their bus colleagues being forced to stand on picket lines for an inordinate period of time".
Mr O'Leary continued: "Rail workers are obviously watching with both interest and concern what is going on in the two bus companies.
"Whilst they are not in dispute with their employer and as such have no NBRU-sanctioned role in any or either of these disputes, my office has been inundated with contacts from Irish Rail workers, informing me that they are keeping a watching brief and making it abundantly clear that they will not tolerate the prospect of bus colleagues being forced to stand on picket lines for an inordinate period of time."
Tensions escalated yesterday after Bus Éireann chief executive Martin Nolan ruled out pay rises in a letter to staff because the company's finances are "in a critical position".
In his letter, Mr Nolan said no pay increases "can be contemplated" as the company expects losses of €6m this year, following losses of €5.6m last year.
He said that drawing up a survival plan was the only course open to it.
Mr Nolan said the schools and public service obligation businesses were performing satisfactorily but the Expressway service continued to lose money despite "extensive promotion and development".
Mr Nolan said the structural changes required would involve separating Expressway from the rest of the business and giving it a new management, with new terms and conditions for staff.
The NBRU has already backed industrial action in a ballot if the company imposes cuts.