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Travel chaos looms as bus staff vote for all-out strike

WEEKEND workers and shoppers face a potential travel nightmare as Bus Eireann drivers prepare to walk off the job.

Staff at the troubled company have voted for an all-out strike from Sunday.

They are protesting over changes to pay and conditions proposed by the company.

The strike will halt bus services across the country but it is not yet clear whether it will hit school buses next week.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the chairman of Bus Eireann lives in Dubai – some 7,000km away from the semi-State company's base in Dublin.

 

Rolling

Paul Mallee was appointed to the role two years ago by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar. It has emerged that a month after his appointment in July 2011, Mr Mallee moved to Dubai after securing a senior position with Etihad Airways.

However, Mr Mallee has flown back to Dublin to attend 17 out of 18 board meetings. He attended the other meeting by video-conference.

Although school services run by the company are not traditionally affected by industrial action, management at Bus Eireann said they will monitor the situation.

Part-time school bus drivers were not balloted and so they should not strike. But if there is a strike among back-up staff – such as inspectors or maintenance workers – Bus Eireann said that they would have no option to cancel school services.

Some 114,000 students will be affected if the dispute spreads to the school transport network.

The industrial action is expected to take the form of a 'rolling action' whereby a decision on strike will be taken on a day by day basis.

An all-out bus driver strike would potentially cost Bus Eireann around €200,000 a day.

Some 83pc of the 820 votes cast by National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) members yesterday rejected the Labour Court's cost-cutting recommendation, which included €5m reductions in overtime and premium pay.

The Herald understands that the move to strike at short notice leaves the union in a risky position.

Unions must, by law, give at least seven days' notice of industrial action.

"Bus Eireann would be in a position to sue the union for any loss of revenue," a transport source said.

It is understood that approximately 1,000 drivers of the 2,500 staff are members of the NBRU. The remainder of the drivers are represented by Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU).

And clerical and administrative staff come under the umbrella of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA).

The SIPTU and TSSA's ballot result will not be known until after May 16.

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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