The strike by bus workers: the questions and answers

What are the issues surrounding the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann stoppage?

A strike poster photographed at Broadstone depot during. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

A strike poster photographed at Broadstone depot during. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

What is this dispute about?

The strike action at Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann centres on opposition by unions at the companies to moves by the National Transport Authority to put out to tender 10 per cent of routes currently operated by the State-owned transport firms. The unions fear that if the routes are privatised following this tender process this would result in a deterioration of their members’ terms and conditions. They also contend they are fighting to protect the future of publicly-provided transport services.

Has the Government not given assurances to bus workers?

The Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has guaranteed that no Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann employee will be forced to transfer against their will to a private operator even if the State companies lose the right to provide some services under the planned tendering process.

However the unions have a number of otherconcerns, particularly what will happen in 2019 when they fear many more existing routes could be put out to tender under the next wave of reforms in the sector.

What the National Transport Authority said

It has said it cannot say at this stage how many, if any other Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann routes will be put out to tender in 2019.

It has also pointed out that even under the existing plan to put out to tender 10 per cent of services, the State companies can take part in this process and the routes may not go to private operators.

What do the unions want?

The trade union Siptu has set out a 6-point agenda which it says will have to be addressed as part of any resolution. This includes clarification of the legislative position regarding what will happen in 2019.

It is also seeking that labour costs be excluded from the tendering process for routes and that a registered employment agreement for the sector be put in place which would place a legal floor under terms and conditions for staff.

What is the position of the bus companies?

On Thursday evening after last-ditch resolution efforts failed the State-owned bus companies upped the ante and announced they are to sue the trade unions for losses incurred as a result of the strike.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have contended that the industrial action is illegal.

The companies have maintained that the move to tender bus routes was a decision of the National Transport Authority which was implementing Government policy. They have said they have no power or authority to amend or revise the plan in any way. They have also contended that industrial relations issues have been addressed in the assurances given that no workers will be forced to move to private operatorsagainst their will.

The companies have maintained that they will lose about €3 million as a result of the industrial action.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann also face having fines of €150,000 and €80,000 respectively imposed by the National Transport Authority for every day services are not provided.

The trade unions have strongly rejected the allegation that the strike is illegal.

If the companies believe the strike is illegal, why did they not seek and injunction to try to prevent it?

It seems inconceivable that the companies only came to its conclusion last night that the strike was unlawful. However it would appear that a decision was taken to continue along the industrial relations route as far as possible until this finally collapsed yesterday evening.

What will happen next?

Five further days of strike action at the two companies are scheduled to take place over the coming weeks. The Labour Relations Commission has urged all parties to return to talks with a view to finding a resolution.