Dublin Bus strike looks set to continue tomorrow
Varadkar urges unions to call off action as up to 230,000 passenger face disruption
Striking bus drivers pictured outside Dublin Bus Ringsend Garage. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
Dublin Bus drivers picket the Clontarf bus depot this morning.
The picket outside the Broadstone bus garage this morning.
The strike at Dublin Bus which commenced today, looks set to continue over the coming days, causing further disruption for passengers.
Although all parties say they are willing to engage in further talks, there appears to be no imminent intervention aimed at bringing the company and unions back to the negotiating table
There were no Dublin Bus services in operation today. Up to 230,000 passengers use Dublin Bus daily at weekends but the numbers affected by the dispute could rise to more than 400,000 if it continues until Tuesday.
The strike centres on moves by management at Dublin Bus to implement a Labour Court recommendation to reduce costs by €11.7 million. The company has maintained that these savings are essential if it is to move back into profitability next year.
Members of Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) have rejected the Labour Court recommendation on the grounds that the measures are excessive coming on top of cost savings introduced at the company in 2009 which cut earnings at the time.
Under the Labour Court recommendation, core pay for the company’s 2,300 drivers would not be affected; however overtime rates and premium payments for working on Sundays or rest days would be reduced.
Managerial staff would see pay cuts of between 3 and 5 per cent under the Labour Court recommendation.
The Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar urged the unions to call off the strike.
He said public transport “should be run in the interests of the passengers who use it and the taxpayers who pay for it, and not in the interests of management or unions”.
“I regret this strike action by staff at Dublin Bus. This action targets those who have no other alternative to public transport and exacerbates the financial position in Dublin Bus. I urge the trade unions to reconsider their position and call of this action. Both sides should do everything to agree the necessary savings in order to protect existing service levels.”
“Negotiations have been on-going for over a year and recommendations have been made by the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.”
A spokeswoman for Dublin Bus said that if there was an intervention in the dispute the company would engage positively but that any talks would have to “meaningful and constructive”.
Speaking on RTE Radio today Mr Varadkar said that if Dublin Bus continued to run up losses, jobs would be in jeopardy.
Dublin Bus tweet on services today
He said the company was making losses on every route it operated “including some that should be profitable”.
The Minister said that passengers had experienced significant increases in fares but there had not been savings generated on payroll.
Mr Varadkar said that any escalation of the dispute into other companies in the CIE group such as Irish Rail would be “unlawful” as there had been no strike ballots on the issue.
He said the company had been in negotiations on the cost-saving plan for 14 months.
A Siptu worker director on the board of Dublin Bus, Bill McCamley, said the cost-saving measures were being implemented in a “very, very unequal way”.
“All the pressure is being put on the blue collar workers, clerical workers, supervisors,” he said this morning outside one of the company’s bus garages in Phibsboro.
“The real top management, they’re not contributing anything,” he said. “The company has unilaterally introduced their plans. So we’ve had absolutely no other option but to react to what they’re doing”.
Minister of State for Public Transport Alan Kelly described the strike as a “bad day for public transport in Ireland”.
“Tourists, match-goers, festival-goers and members of the general public are being discommoded because of strike action,” he said, adding that the situaiton was “regrettable and unnecessary”.
“No worker wants to be on strike and management want the company to retain its services,” he said.
The Minister called on boths sides to come together to try to resolve the problem “once and for all”.
“If there is a better way to achieve the level of savings required to secure the future of Dublin Bus, then these need to be tabled and discussed as soon as possible,” he said.
There are also concerns the dispute may affect train users. NBRU assistant general secretary Dermot O’Leary said Irish Rail members would not stand “idly by” while cuts were imposed on employees at their sister company Dublin Bus.
“I believe this action was entirely avoidable and will be resolved in the days ahead but the stunning lack of leadership on the part of Ministers Varadkar and Kelly is extremely significant,” he said. “Their hands-off approach has the potential to lead to further disruption in the public transport network with strike action now hanging over Irish Rail.”
On Friday night Dublin Bus wrote to all employees urging them not to engage in industrial action.
The strike is cost Dublin Bus approximately €200,000 per day.
The halting of bus services in the capital is also expected to disrupt businesses.
Dublin Bus said the company had no choice but to implement the measures to stabilise the company’s finances.
A spokeswoman for the company said the strike would cause disruption to customers and further losses for the company.
“It’s really, really, disappointing, counterproductive and damaging,” she said. “Striking is not going to solve the problem and the financial situation will worsen as a result of the strike.”
She said Dublin Bus was willing to enter talks if they were “constructive around achieving the savings necessary”.
The company said that bus drivers’ core pay of around €40,000 per annum would not be cut while management and executives faced pay cuts of 3 per cent to 5 per cent. She also said that only about 25 per cent of drivers opted for overtime.
Siptu and the NBRU have said drivers had lost up to €250 a week from cuts in 2009 and faced a €94 cut for each day of the six Bank Holidays they worked per year, along with a cut of €35 if they work a rest day.