Dublin Bus must find new way to make BusConnects scheme work

Drivers reject change in work practices but separate pay claim could resurrect issue

 Dublin Bus sought the changes in work practices to ease the implementation of the BusConnects project, and to set itself up to compete with potential rivals for routes when its current contract with the National Transport Authority ends in 2024. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Dublin Bus sought the changes in work practices to ease the implementation of the BusConnects project, and to set itself up to compete with potential rivals for routes when its current contract with the National Transport Authority ends in 2024. Photograph: Damien Eagers

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This week, Dublin Bus essentially asked its drivers to surrender some of the terms and conditions they have built up over the years in return for pay increases and enhanced bonuses. Their answer was a resounding “no”.

As Siptu and National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) officials pointed out on Friday, the drivers killed the proposals with a 97 per cent rejection in a ballot this week. A narrow loss might give room to tweak or adjust the deal’s terms, but a vote against on that scale rules out revisiting the issue.

The rejected proposals include asking drivers assigned to specific routes to drive any service from the garages at which they are based. They also seek extra concessions on Sunday working, leave and other work practices.

Dublin Bus sought the changes to ease the implementation of the BusConnects project, and to set itself up to compete with potential rivals for routes when its current contract with the National Transport Authority ends in 2024.

It now has to work out how to implement BusConnects with no change to its drivers’ current terms and conditions. Siptu’s transport sector organiser, John Murphy, says that the programme will go ahead irrespective of the ballot’s outcome.

The first phase, focused on the Howth to city centre “corridor” has already been implemented. The next phase, covering Lucan to the centre to Ringsend, launches in October.

That still leaves the question of competition. Recommending the deal to drivers last month, the unions told workers that the deal was needed to allow the company to take on rivals.

However, there may be some scope for Dublin Bus to seek extra productivity from drivers. The unions also have a pay claim, part of the normal industrial relations procedures at the State company, that is likely to seek increases similar to those given elsewhere in the public service.

While Dublin Bus can hardly use those talks to rework proposals that drivers have roundly rejected, there will be nothing to stop it seeking some concessions in return for pay increases.

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