Bus strike causing major drop in trade, businesses claim

Firms report footfall in Dublin and Cork cities is down by more than 20 per cent

 

Business organisations said their trade has been significantly damaged, particularly in urban areas, due to the continuing bus strike .

The 48-hour work stoppage by staff at Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus, who are represented by the National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu, has left hundreds of thousands of passengers without a service on Saturday.

The deputy chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland Sean Murphy said it had received reports that footfall - a measure of how many people are on the streets - in Dublin city and Cork city was down 20 - 22 per cent.

He said trade in suburban areas and other towns was less severely affected by the strike.

He said the situation was very disappointing coming on top of other protests and demonstrations that have been held in recent times and which have impacted on trading.

There are no new initiatives currently underway aimed at bringing to an end the dispute at Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann and a further 5 days of work stoppages which are scheduled to take place in the weeks ahead.

Pickets were again placed today on Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus depots as drivers held a second day of strikes over plans to put out to tender 10 per cent of routes currently operated by the two State-owned transport companies.

The focus is no turning towards any moves that could avert a further stoppages. A 48-hour strike by members of the National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu is due to take place on May 15th-16th.

A three-day strike is schedule to follow between May 29th to 31st.

The Government has urged all parties to re-engage in talks, while chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey said it was prepared to engage in intensive negotiations to prevent further industrial unrest.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann in recent days initiated legal proceedings against the two unions in the dispute for financial losses arising from what they claim is an illegal strike.

The unions have rejected the allegations and argue that a legitimate trade dispute exists.

The bus companies believe the issues at the heart of the dispute are policy matters for the Government and the NTA and beyond their control.

They maintain they could lose €3 million as a result of this two-day strike and are suing to recoup their losses.

Asked why they had not sought a court injunction to prevent the strike going ahead if it was believed it was illegal, they said: “Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus wished to exhaust every avenue of talks and discussion, before embarking on a legal action as a last and final resort.”

Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, dismissed the companies’ claim that the strike action - backed by workers in ballots - was illegal.

“We absolutely reject that. This is a genuine trade dispute,” he said.

The dispute centres on a move last year by the National Transport Authority to open 10 per cent of bus routes to private operators and to open more in 2019.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said the strike is unjustified and promised no State-employed bus worker would be forced on to the payroll of a private operator.

Undeterred by the damp and dreary conditions at Busáras, Bus Éireann employees are continuing their picket outside the front entrance for a second day.

In spite of the obvious disruptions caused to commuters nationwide, driver Mark Brohan is heartened by the support he and his colleagues have received from members of the public.

“The public are supporting us at the moment. Yes the public are being discommoded and we do apologise to them... they’re our passengers and our customers but this is what it has to come to, our terms and conditions are under threat here,” he said on Saturday.

Mr Brohan does not believe the threat of legal action by the State bus companies against the unions is antagonistic, but thinks Mr Donohoe is responsible for the situation that has transpired.

“He’s mediated nothing. He’s done nothing. He’s guaranteed nothing. The Minister came out and tried to guarantee that there would be no job losses and all this kind of stuff, but at this moment in time the Minister can’t even guarantee his own job next year so how can he guarantee ours?” said Mr Brohan, who operates the Ballina to Sligo route.

Mr Brohan’s triking colleague Liam O’Mahony does not believe the striking workers have much public sympathy and agreed that the financial loss to the bus companies was an unfortunate but necessary by-product.

“I’m not really encouraged by the public’s reaction. Stopping them from going to work isn’t a great thing, but at the end of the day I think all the people in the country need to wake up and see what’s going on here.

“They’re talking about losing a couple of million over the course of the planned strikes, but it’s a drop in the ocean for them.”