Dublin Bus services halted as 48-hour strike begins

Management warns work stoppages could leave door open to privatisation of services

Bus strike: Siptu condemned what it described as “the lack of interest shown by the Department of Transport and management in trying to resolve the dispute.” Photograph: PA

Bus strike: Siptu condemned what it described as “the lack of interest shown by the Department of Transport and management in trying to resolve the dispute.” Photograph: PA

 

Dublin Bus services have been suspended since 9pm on Wednesday night as the capital prepares for a 48-hour strike by staff.

Up to 400,000 people will again have their travel plans disrupted on Thursday and Friday as a result of a second work stoppage by staff at the company in a dispute over pay.

Dublin Bus management has suggested that the current wave of strikes could potentially leave the door open to the privatisation of services in the capital.

In a letter to staff ahead of the latest strike, Dublin Bus chief executive Ray Coyne said the industrial action would cause “huge disruption”.

“This action will totally undermine the credibility of the company as being the best operator of the bus network in Dublin .”

Mr Coyne urged trade unions to engage in a talks process at the Workplace Relations Commission in a bid to avert further strikes at the company.

Trade unions will meet on Thursday to consider their future strategy in the dispute. Among the options expected to be discussed are further strikes including 48-hour stoppages at increasing frequency or even potentially an all-out strike, although this seems unlikely at this stage.

Dublin Bus is engaged in a tender process to retain the rights to operate 10 per cent of its existing routes which have been put out to tender under Government transport reforms. The company also wants to continue to operate its current range of services when its existing contract expires in 2019.

It is likely that Mr Coyne’s comments in his letter to staff suggest that the industrial action could undermine the company’s prospects in the current tendering process for the 10 per cent of routes and in the longer term regarding its overall State transport contract.

Private sector

In his letter Mr Coyne said under a Labour Court recommendation which the company has accepted and the workers rejected, staff would receive pay increases of 8.25 per cent over 16 months. He said this would comprise a 2.75 percent lump sum backdated to January 1st 2016 paid upon acceptance of the Labour Court Recommendation, 2.75 per cent effective from January 2017 and 2.75 per cent effective from January 2018.

“This pay award is well above the industry norm (approximately 2 per cent ) in the public and private sector. We believe this pay award to be fair and reasonable and acknowledges the contribution of all employees to the company’s recent financial recovery.”

Mr Coyne said the company was available to enter discussions immediately with each grade of staff about productivity measures which could generate further increases on top of the flat rise of 8.25 per cent.

However, he said each day of strike action was costing the company more than €600,000.

“This series of proposed stoppages will cost the company in excess of €5 million. This cost is unnecessary and avoidable and will seriously undermine our ability to fund the 8.25 per cent recommended by the Labour Court.”

“It is in everyone’s interest to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible. I believe that the Workplace Relations Commission is the correct forum for further engagement as provided for in the Labour Court Recommendation and I urge all grades to engage in that process and avoid any further disruption of services.”

In a letter to Dublin Bus on Wednesday night, the NBRU signalled it was open to talks but reminded management that members had rejected the whole of the Labour Court recommendation including the provision for further rises linked to productivity.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said:” I cannot find any argument with your belief ‘that the Workplace Relations Commission is the correct forum for further engagement’.

“However the setting of preconditions on any potential pay discussions on issues such as productivity, particularly given the fact that a significant amount has already been delivered, is not conducive to resolving this dispute.”

The trade union Siptu condemned what it described as “the lack of interest shown by the Department of Transport and management in trying to resolve the dispute at the company for forcing them to implement a further 48-hour work stoppage”.

Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy said: “An industrial dispute is always eventually resolved through negotiation. The problem our members are facing in this dispute is that those they need to negotiate with would seem to have gone into hiding.”

“In such a situation, I believe it completely fair to squarely place the responsibility for the inconvenience that the public will unfortunately endure tomorrow on those who are unwilling to even attempt to seek a negotiated end to this dispute.

“As always, Siptu representatives are available at any time to enter into serious negotiations aimed at finding an agreed resolution. Unfortunately, as of now there is no one sitting at the other side of the table.”