Dublin Bus strike: Unions to meet company for ‘exploratory’ talks

Two-day strike still scheduled for Tuesday despite plan for talks without preconditions

 Dublin Bus strikes: For the moment at least, work stoppages planned for tomorrow and Wednesday are still scheduled to go ahead. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Dublin Bus strikes: For the moment at least, work stoppages planned for tomorrow and Wednesday are still scheduled to go ahead. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Talks between unions and management at Dublin Bus aimed at averting further strikes are to start today, just hours before the next 48-hour strike is due to begin.

However, the new process has been described as “exploratory” and, for the moment at least, work stoppages planned for tomorrow and Wednesday are still scheduled to go ahead.

The Workplace Relations Commission intervened in the dispute on Sunday and invited the parties to attend talks without preconditions to examine whether a basis existed for further engagement to try to find a resolution. Unions representing the 3,400 staff at Dublin Bus as well as management at the company said they would attend the talks.

Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy and the general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) Dermot O’Leary welcomed the invitation. However, they said any consideration of cancelling this week’s strikes would only be taken after their unions assessed if any progress had been made at today’s talks.

“The NBRU focus from the commencement of this dispute has been geared towards getting Dublin Bus to attend at discussions in order to address the fact that its own staff are deserving of a fair and adequate wage rise after eight long years of austerity-enforced pay stagnation and pay cuts,” Mr O’Leary, said.

Decision

He said any decision on whether the strike action tomorrow goes ahead or is cancelled will be made by the union committee based on the progress, or otherwise at today’s initial meeting.

Regional officer of the Unite trade union Willie Quigley also welcomed the intervention in the dispute and said he looked forward to “engaging without preconditions”.

Dublin Bus said it would be attending the talks and that it would not be making any further comment at this stage.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he was pleased that both sides were to sit down to new talks. “We now need to give the relevant institutions space to formulate an agreement that is fair and workable for both sides.”

Campaign

Staff at Dublin Bus have staged six days of strikes so far this month as part of a campaign for higher pay. A further 13 days of strikes are scheduled, commencing tomorrow.

Last week the company warned that if further strikes went ahead as planned the industrial action will have cost Dublin Bus €21 million.

About 400,000 people have had their travel plans disrupted on each strike day. Business groups said the stoppages had cost millions.

The timescale in the new talks for the parties to determine whether there is basis for a formal engagement to try to resolve the dispute is short.

The exploratory talks are due to commence at 2pm today, however bus services are also likely to begin grinding to a halt by about 9pm in advance of the start of the 48-hour strike at midnight.

One of the key issues is whether the parties will compromise. Unions are seeking increases of 15 per cent over three years while Dublin Bus has said it can afford no more than the 8.25 per cent recommended by the Labour Court.

Unions are also looking for payment of a 6 per cent rise due originally under a national wage deal in 2008.

The NBRU is also seeking pay parity for Dublin Bus drivers with drivers on the Luas light rail system.