Shane Ross rules out intervening in Bus Éireann dispute

Minister of Transport tells Oireachtas committee he has ‘no agenda’ to privatise company

A protest by striking Bus Éireann staff has been held outside Leinster House to coincide with the appearance of Minister Shane Ross at the Oireachtas transport committee where he was giving a presentation on Bus Éireann. Video: Ronan McGreevy

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has again declined to intervene in the Bus Éireann dispute, amid warnings from union leaders and TDs that it may escalate and impact on all public transport services.

On the sixth day of the bus strike, Mr Ross 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.

He said that if the parties required external assistance, the expert advice of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court were there.

The Minister said his participation, if he intervened, would be interpreted as him “bringing the taxpayers’ money” into the talks.


“I will not be doing that,” he said.

Heated meeting

During a heated meeting, the Minister insisted he wanted to see the crisis resolved and said he had “absolutely no agenda” to privatise Bus Éireann or to push down wages for any ideological reason. Deputies and Senators highlighted the problems being faced in many rural towns due to the strike.

Several hundred transport workers marched to Leinster House under their trade union banners and protested as the committee meeting began.

About 2,600 employees of the bus company have been on strike since last Friday in a dispute over plans by management to introduce new cost-saving efficiency measures and work practice changes.

Mr Ross said he could not give a definite figure for the company’s losses last year as the accounts had not yet been audited, but that the company itself had indicated the losses were of the order of between €8 million and €9 million.

No strategy

Dermot O’Leary , general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union (NBRU), said earlier the Government and CIÉ were running the risk of bringing the entire transport network to a halt. He said that when a dispute started there was no strategy and that it could take on a momentum of its own.

Mr O’Leary said the union was available if asked back to talks in the WRC.

The Siptu trade union said it wanted to engage in “meaningful negotiations concerning far-reaching change and improvements in the public bus network”.

The union said the best place for those talks was in the WRC or “another body capable of overseeing an agreement on a just and fair solution to this dispute”.

During the committee meeting Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy asked Mr Ross if it was his agenda to “push down the pay and conditions” of the bus workers so the company could “compete more freely with commercial operators”.

‘No agenda’

The Minister said there was “absolutely no agenda” on his part to push down wages for any reason at all, but he said there were “inefficiencies” in the company that had to be addressed.

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster told the Minister the workers were “determined they will not be part of a race to the bottom” and that the dispute risked becoming “the mother of all strikes”.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry told the Minister there was a proposal on the table from Bus Éireann to establish a panel of part-time and temporary drivers working a “type of zero-hours” contract. Mr Ross said he had been told by the company it had no such plans.