Cool heads must prevail to limit strike damage
ALL strikes are distressing and cause untold inconvenience. Nationwide public transport strikes, like the one that began at Bus Eireann yesterday, are extremely damaging. The biggest losers in all of this are the tens of thousands of passengers nationwide who depend on the national bus service to get to work, to get to school and other education, and to get to medical and other vital services.
The stoppage also comes at a time when the tourist season is beginning to start, bringing a further risk of economic losses and reputation damage for Ireland beyond these shores.
This strike is not directly part of the ongoing pay dispute in the public service, which is also due to come to a head this week. But coming as it does at a very febrile time in Irish industrial relations, it can also have a big impact on that issue.
It is very clear that continuing losses at Bus Eireann, which now total €27m over five years, must be addressed without further delay. There is also no doubt that the longer the company is absent from the market, the greater the risk to its long-term future.
This is not a time for union bashing or impugning the management at Bus Eireann. It is a time for cool heads, pragmatism and keeping lines of strained communication open.
Strikes must always be avoided; more usually both sides, and many innocent victims caught in the middle, all lose out heavily.
But once a strike starts it just has to concentrate minds on all sides. This one has to be sorted out quickly because there is just too much at stake for people in every corner of the country.
Both sides maintain that they are ready for talks and many government ministers have urged them to begin negotiations. It is now up to the Government to use its influence to establish a mediation process.
Then there is a bounden duty on both management and unions to show the flexibility and realism needed to end this strike as quickly as they can. A prolonged bus strike is in absolutely nobody's interest.