Commuters to face disruption as Dublin Bus strike enters third day

Varadkar urges resumption of services, says taxpayer has no more money to give company

Mon, Aug 5, 2013, 18:54

Hundreds of thousands of people returning to work after the Bank Holiday weekend will have to find alternative modes of transport tomorrow if, as expected, the Dublin Bus strike enters its third day.

There would appear to be no resolution in sight in the dispute, which centres over the unilateral implementation by management of a Labour Court recommendations aimed at generating savings of €11.7 million at the company.

The Department of Transport warned motorists today that bus lanes will not be opened up for drivers tomorrow if the strike continues. A spokesman said the decision was based on the fact that many private bus operators and taxis will still be using the lanes.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar warned today the taxpayer has no more money to give to Dublin Bus to resolve its industrial relations difficulties. He said there was an urgent need for a resumption of services in Dublin which have been affected by strike action by staff for the past two days.

However, he said an intervention in the dispute by the Labour Relations Commission was only possible “when both sides are ready to cut a deal”.

Mr Varadkar said that “in the old days”, ministers would solve industrial relations disputes by throwing taxpayers’ money at them.

“That era is over. The taxpayer has no more to give Dublin Bus,” he said.

“Tuesday is a normal working day. There is an urgent need to resume Dublin Bus services given those being inconvenienced - the old and infirm who have no alternative to public transport, workers who need public transport to get to their jobs and tourists visiting our capital city.”

Earlier, Fianna Fáil criticised Mr Varadkar for “sitting on the sidelines” while passengers were left to suffer as a result of the strike.

The party’s transport spokesman Timmy Dooley called on the Taoiseach to intervene in the dispute if Mr Varadkar failed to act. He said he is “astonished at the hands off approach the Minister has taken” and claimed the lack of leadership is exacerbating the issue.

Sinn Féin transport spokesman Dessie Ellis said Mr Varadkar’s lack of intervention was “unacceptable” and accused the Minister of “paving the way for the privatisation” of the transport service.

There appears to be no prospect of any immediate third-party intervention by the Labour Relations Commission or other industrial relations body aimed at resolving the row. Sources suggested there could possibly be an intervention later in the week but in the meantime the dispute was expected to continue.

Union sources have warned the dispute could escalate to involve workers in Irish Rail – which is also part of the broader CIÉ transport group – by the middle of the week if there was no movement to settle the row at Dublin Bus.

This morning, assistant general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) Dermot O’Leary said there were indications from its Irish Rail members that they were “dissatisfied” with how the bus workers were being treated and they were “not prepared to stand idly by for a period of time and allow that to happen”.

Mr O’Leary said it would be more beneficial if Government ministers making statements on the talks would “back up statements by action”. Ministers were “criticising unions in one sense and encouraging people to negotiate” but “at the same time, have it in their gift to make a request for intervention”, he said.

Dublin Bus is “willing to engage in constructive talks” but only on the basis that “ all parties are willing to sit together and to talk and on the basis that agreement is reached and the savings that we are need are implemented”, company spokeswoman Cliona Ni Fhatharta told RTÉ Radio today.

She said savings being put forward were there to “protect jobs” and core wages of the “vast majority” and to maintain services.

Dublin City Business Association warned that the strike would damage Dublin’s economy. He told RTÉ Radio it was “extremely bad for business” and a “dreadful thing” to happen when people were tying to pull themselves out of difficult times.

Dublin Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn said the current strike was not a good move because it was hurting people trying to get to work, businesses and tourists. Unions and management needed to be brought back to the Labour Relations commission, he told RTÉ Radio.

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