Varadkar pledges ‘last ditch’ intervention in Dublin Bus row
Minister for Transport says nobody will win if another strike takes place
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said his Department is working on plans on what to do in the event of Dublin Bus going bust.
Mr Varadkar told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk today he hoped it wouldn’t come to that but said he needed to prepare for every possibility.
Dublin Bus drivers rejected new proposals to implement cost saving measures at the company last week.
The measures included cuts to overtime, increases in the working week and reductions in leave – but not cuts to core pay except for management grades – and are designed to generate savings of almost € 12 million. Dublin Bus has argued that these savings are vital if it is to return to profitability.
Drivers went on strike for three days last month after management unilaterally implemented cost savings.
The strike was suspended by the unions to facilitate a further intervention by the Labour Court. The deferral took place after Dublin Bus agreed to put on hold the implementation of the cost-saving measures.
Mr Varadkar said there would be one last ditch intervention over the next couple of weeks to try and solve the industrial relations problems at the company.
“If a strike were to resume and I very much hope that it doesn’t the company will be in breach of their contract [with the Government] again and realistically there would come a point where the company would not be able to operate any more as it would simply run out of money - there would be no fares coming in, no government subvention coming in,” he said.
Costs savings at the company hadn’t been delivered, he added, and he simply didn’t have the option of putting any more money in.
“This time last year CIE was on the verge of going bust. I took a decision with my colleagues to borrow and beg money from everywhere to inject another €36 million into the company,” he said. “ The difficulty is I don’t have that option this year. The money was put in to CIE on the basis that the companies would be restructured, that they would be reformed and cost savings would be delivered and they actually haven’t been delivered.”
He said if the company were to cease operating “we could put public transport back together again.”
“My department is working on all these kind of options and scenarios but let’s hope we don’t get into that. As I said there will be another last ditch intervention to try and solve the issues and to try and get those savings. But obviously if we head into a strike scenario nobody’s going to win from that. Everyone will lose from that.”
On the upcoming Budget, Mr Varadkar said he needed to get his Department’s budget down from €1.4 billion to €1.35 billion. However he said he was “pushing very hard” for an increase in capital spend.
He said there would be a further reduction in the subvention for public transport and in the road maintenance budget. Cuts to the latter would be partially softened by the influx of money from the property tax, he said, 80 per cent of which will go to local authorities for the maintenance of local and regional roads.
He said the broad vision of a plan, described in yesterday’s Irish Times, to remove a good deal of traffic from Dublin city centre was an exciting one but said lots of things needed to be done first before that became a reality.
“There are some really beautiful cities in Europe… very friendly to pedestrians, families and with beautiful squares. I’d like Dublin to be that kind of city,” he said
“If there were no cars, our public transport could only carry take 40 per cent of people who need to go into the city. In Europe it’s about 80 per cent so there’s a lot to be done before implementing radical plans.”