Bus companies face up to €1.6m in penalties if strikes go ahead
DUBLIN Bus and Bus Eireann face a combined penalty of as much as €1.6m if the threatened strikes are not called off.
National Transport Authority (NTA) boss Anne Graham warned that the penalties would be imposed for the non-provision of services over as many as seven days.
The penalties would be on top of losses put as high as €5m for Bus Eireann alone if the disruptive industrial action goes ahead.
Unions Siptu and the NBRU, who oppose the NTA's planned privatisation of 10pc of bus routes, are planning two 48-hour stoppages next month, with the latter threatening a further three-day strike.
Both are planning to stage two 48-hour stoppages on May 1 and 2 as well as May 15 and 16.
The NBRU is also planning a three-day strike on May 29, 30 and 31.
Ms Graham said Dublin Bus would be penalised to the tune of €150,000 a day and Bus Eireann €80,000 a day.
"Well, I hope it wouldn't go ahead. I hope the unions will reconsider and re-engage in talks with the LRC (Labour Relations Commission) and not put out the public transport customers and impose this plan on their journeys," she told RTE Radio.
The unions say they plan to strike over their fears that privatising certain bus routes could lead to the demise of Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.
They are also worried that members could experience diminished terms and conditions if they were forced to move to private operators that won contracts.
Ms Graham insisted that the routes being put up for tender "are not being privatised".
"That would be about transfer of ownership and loss of public control, which isn't the case here at all," she said, adding that any operator including Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann can bid for contracts.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary disputed this, saying the NTA was trying to "fudge" the issue.
"The simple fact is that taking services from a public company and giving them to a private company is one of the fundamental cornerstones associated with privatisation," he said.
Meanwhile, Dublin Bus is selling 86 older vehicles from its fleet.
A spokesperson for the company said that selling the old fleet was part of the annual programme that involves "replacing older buses in our fleet to ensure service reliability, to keep maintenance costs to a minimum and also so we can avail of technological advancements to ensure high accessibility standards".
Each new bus that will replace the older ones costs around €250,000.