Irish Rail and Dublin Bus staff may join Bus Éireann strike

Source says industrial unrest could spill over into other transport firms next week

Bus Éireann workers picket outside Busáras in Dublin earlier this week. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Bus Éireann workers picket outside Busáras in Dublin earlier this week. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The ongoing industrial action at Bus Éireann could spill over into Dublin Bus and Irish Rail next week if there is no resolution to the dispute in the meantime, a source close to the strike has said.

It is now a week since 2,600 workers at the bus company went out on all-out strike.

The action is costing the company about €500,000 a day in lost fares and fines, some of which is offset by unpaid wages, and is affecting an estimated 100,000 transport users.

The dispute centres on efforts by Bus Éireann to introduce new cost-saving efficiency measures and work practice changes without agreement in an effort to improve the company’s finances.

It has been suggested the unrest could spread to other transport companies as a show of support among union members. A well-placed source said: “That is going to come; it’s a matter of when.”

It is understood any such “wildcat” action by workers at Bus Éireann’s sister companies Dublin Bus or Irish Rail would be limited in duration

Irish Rail and Dublin Bus yesterday said they had received no indication of any such intention on the part of their staff.

National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary said “the palpable anger” among Bus Éireann workers was making it “extremely difficult . . . to [prevent] contagion across the entire public transport sector”.

He said Minister for Transport Shane Ross, the Government, CIÉ and Bus Éireann management had a limited window of opportunity in which to resolve this dispute “before the control we have been able to exercise will inevitably evaporate”.

‘Increasingly clear’

In a statement, Mr O’Leary said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the continuous build-up of frustration and pressure among our members is reaching volcanic proportions and may, despite our urgings to the contrary, erupt into the mother of all public transport disputes.”

In the Dáil, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Ross of “sabotaging the transport network” by refusing to intervene in the dispute.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton rejected her accusations and claimed instead that the Sinn Féin approach “would lead to more industrial disputes and result in the taxpayer funding every strike”.

Mr Ross on Wednesday told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport he was “not a mediator” and would not be “dictating” to the company or the unions on internal issues.

There was some disruption to trains on the first day of the strike with picketing in Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Waterford and Rosslare but there is no sign of this being repeated.

National Transport Authority fines for a lack of services are expected to be about €125,000 for each weekday and €75,000 for Saturdays and Sundays.

About 110,000 passengers a day are thought to be without transport.

Bus Éireann yesterday said it was “prepared to re-enter time limited talks in relation to efficiencies and work practice changes”.

“The company is heading towards insolvency, and without these, we cannot achieve a viable and sustainable future,” it said.

The Department of Transport did not immediately respond to queries regarding Mr Ross’ position in the event of staff at Dublin Bus and Irish Rail becoming involved in the dispute.