Bus Éireann unions say strike is set to continue

NBRU and Siptu bosses claim convening of new talks would not end industrial action

The scene at Ringsend garage last Friday as Dublin Bus workers stopped work in support of their Bus Éireann colleagues. Photograph: Frank Miller

The scene at Ringsend garage last Friday as Dublin Bus workers stopped work in support of their Bus Éireann colleagues. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Unions representing staff at Bus Éireann have said the current strike at the company will continue even if new talks aimed at finding a resolution to the dispute are convened.

About 2,600 workers at the State-owned transport company will strike for a 12th consecutive day on Tuesday over plans by management at Bus Éireann to introduce new cost-saving measures and work practice reforms without the agreement of staff.

The company argues the moves are essential if it is to stave off insolvency.

Sources close to the dispute believe that a further intervention will be made by the Workplace Relations Commission in the days ahead, with Wednesday being mentioned in some quarters as a possible date for new discussions between unions and company management.

In a tweet on Monday, National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary said: “Members all over the country resolve to remain on picket line throughout any suggested third-party process.”

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone also said his union would not be calling off the current industrial action even if it did enter new talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr Noone said that a ballot of Dublin Bus members on joining the strike action, which the union announced last week, would be completed on April 12th.

Siptu said it would also be balloting members who are employed as Bus Éireann school bus drivers for industrial and strike action, “due to the threat to their jobs resulting from the wider crisis in the company”.

That vote is due to be completed by April 21st, as is a ballot for industrial action which Siptu is undertaking among its Iarnród Éireann members.

The union would have to give seven-days’ notice after the completion of these ballots before any related industrial action could commence.

Legal action

Meanwhile, the NBRU said it will “robustly defend” any legal action taken against it by State-owned transport companies over the unofficial picketing which took place at Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann premises last Friday.

On Monday, Mr O’Leary again denied that his union was involved in organising the pickets, which were placed by striking Bus Éireann employees.

He also said he had no advance knowledge of this secondary picketing, which caused widespread disruption to Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann services.

The Irish Times reported at the weekend that the CIÉ group solicitor, acting on behalf of Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann, had warned the NBRU in a letter that the firms would be initiating legal action against the union to seek compensation for the millions of euro lost in fare revenue as a result of what was described as “unlawful picketing” last Friday.

Mr O’Leary confirmed on Monday that the NBRU had received the letter from the CIÉ group solicitor and that the union’s legal advisers would respond accordingly.

In the letter, the CIÉ group solicitor said Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann could also face fines running to hundreds of thousands of euro from the National Transport Authority as a result of Friday’s disruption, for failing to provide services which are funded by means of State subventions.

“It is clear that having regard to the manner in which this activity was co-ordinated, and having regard to the change in picketing activity, that this unlawful activity was organised by your union, its officials and members,” the letter said.

It also said the solicitor’s clients had “collected considerable evidence of the role of your union, its officials and members in this activity and we will if necessary bring the entirety of that material to the attention of the court”.