Commuters in trouble if Dublin Bus strike proceeds
Cause of looming stoppage rooted in disputed cost-cutting measures
Siptu transport sector organiser Willie Noone: “There is a way forward and we are fairly close on some of the issues.” Photograph: Dave Meehan
Dublin commuters face transport chaos from Sunday with no buses on the road, if a planned strike goes ahead in a long-running row over cost cutting measures.
Dublin Bus said that after 12 months of talks and backing by the Labour Court, it would implement its cost recovery plan from Sunday to save the €11.7 million required to return to financial stability.
They had exhausted all the State’s industrial relations mechanisms to no effect and the company “now has no option but to proceed immediately with the implementation of the Labour Court’s recommendation”.
The measures include reduced overtime, cuts to bank holiday payments and annual leave and have been rejected in a ballot by 2,450 NBRU and Siptu bus drivers.
‘There is a way forward’
Siptu transport sector organiser Willie Noone said the strike could be avoided if management were prepared to enter discussions in a small number of areas. “There is a way forward and we are fairly close on some of the issues,” he said.
“The company is expecting drivers to buy into the unknown,” he warned.
A driver might finish at 3pm and then be asked to work until 8pm but there was no clarity over whether this would be one day a week or four or five days a week.
“You can’t sell that to people, cutting hours on the one hand and no choice in that but then having to work extra hours if required,” he said.
The dispute also involves 450 Siptu clerical and maintenance staff. Clerical staff want to work the same 37 hours a week agreed by the two other CIÉ companies but they are expected to work 39 hours, said Mr Noone.
The company was also seeking up to 23 redundancies from 150 bus cleaning and maintenance staff, which was unacceptable.
Mr Noone said Bus Éireann had two days of strike action in May before it unpicked certain elements and agreement was reached with the unions.
“The company can avoid even those two days,” he said.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar appealed to both sides to “do everything to agree the necessary savings in order to avoid disruption on Sunday”.
But NBRU assistant general secretary Dermot O’Leary said Mr Varadkar “is expecting Dublin Bus workers to subsidise public transport”.
Mr O’Leary said drivers had taken pay cuts of up to €250 a weekin 2009 through a cost effectiveness plan and now management “is coming back to the same well”. Bus drivers work six bank holidays a year and under the proposals would lose €94 each of those days, just under €600 a year, along with a €35 a day cut if they worked a rest day.
The company’s financial difficulties were in part due to fuel rises, the recession and the cut in the State subvention, which workers had no part in. Mr O’Leary said management had taken comparatively little in the way of cuts.
A Dublin Bus spokeswoman said, however, that management and executives would take a pay cut of between 3 and 5 per cent from Sunday.