Sunday 23 April 2017

Bus strikes: Traffic gridlock chokes up city ... and there’s no sign of a deal

General view of Dublin Bus drivers striking at gate of Dublin Bus Summerhill Bus Depot. Summerhill, Dublin
General view of Dublin Bus drivers striking at gate of Dublin Bus Summerhill Bus Depot. Summerhill, Dublin.
General view of signs on gate of Dublin Bus Summerhill Depot. Summerhill, Dublin
General view of Dublin Buses parked inside gate of Dublin Bus Summerhill Bus Depot. Summerhill, Dublin
People queue at a Bus Eireann stop to get a translink bus to belfast at Dublin Airport on the first day of the bus strike

BUS drivers whose strike has caused commuter chaos for hundreds of thousands of people remained defiant on the picket lines today.

Striking drivers at a city centre depot vowed to stay off the roads for all of the threatened seven days if their concerns over the privatisation of some routes aren’t addressed to the satisfaction of their union.

READ MORE: Vox Pop: 'I had to walk for over 40 minutes to bring my two daughters to school'

They claimed the majority of passengers supported them.

Last ditch talks at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) failed to prevent drivers walking off the job this morning with the strike creating a traffic nightmare for motorists.

READ MORE: Bus strike: Companies threaten to sue after last-ditch strike talks fail

There were massive tailbacks on main routes into the city centre as many bus users took to their cars to get to work and school.

But bus drivers who spoke to the Herald this morning insisted that they have the support of their passengers.

General view of Dublin Bus drivers striking at gate of Dublin Bus Summerhill Bus Depot

Dawn Moir who has been a Dublin Bus driver for 15 years is a SIPTU member.

READ MORE: Vox Pop: 'It's an absolute disaster, I'm going to have to take a holiday off work'

When asked if she would picket for the seven days she replied: “Absolutely. I’m with the union 100pc ... whatever happens happens. Totally against privatisation,” she said.

“People have been saying to us ‘It’s good that you’re taking a stand, fair play to you’.

READ MORE: Carol Hunt: Commuters must be first, but we're back of the queue

“You can see with the numbers (in the union) who were in favour of striking about how strongly we feel about what the Government are doing to us. Nobody wanted it to come to this but we’ve had no choice,” she said.

General view of signs on gate of Dublin Bus Summerhill Depot

Her colleague Catherine Bynre is a member of the other striking union, the NBRU.

“It didn’t have to come to this nobody wants to be on strike but we have to stand up for our terms and conditions,” she said.

READ MORE: Rail set for busy few days as bus lanes to stay closed

Both Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann last night confirmed they are to issue legal letters to both trade unions to recoup the costs of the strike action.

Dublin Bus chief executive Paddy Doherty said “substantial damage” was being done to the transport firms.

Bus Eireann spokeswoman Nicola Cooke this morning warned that the 48-hour action will “cost the two companies at least €3m in revenue”.

“We believe this is an illegal protest against privatisation.

“We’ve done everything we can; we’ve given guarantees following an undertaking by the minister [Paschal Donohoe] to protect all jobs, agreed to no employee transfers,” she told RTE Radio.

SIPTU organiser Owen Reidy said this morning that there are no talks scheduled for today.

“We’ve said we’re available for talks today and tomorrow, but I’d imagine there won’t be any while there is a strike ongoing.

“Of course we’d hope that this dispute will be settled ... but if there is a continuing failure to come to an agreement then there may be an escalation in strike action”.

LRC boss Kieran Muvey this morning called for the war of words to stop.

“We expect people to engage constructively, we don’t want to hear a reiteration of the same mantra on both sides,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the airport – which has no rail link some – tourists were puzzled by the lack of Dublin Bus services.

British couple Gerard Wilson (33) Nicola Costello (27) are on their first trip to Dublin.

“I know that when there’s a bus strike in London it’s absolutely horrendous and it affects absolutely everything. We’ll try to walk more, but we are staying a bit outside the city so we might have to get taxis in and out,” said Nicola.

Bus drivers are also planning a stoppage between May 15-16, and a three-day strike on May 29, 30 and 31.

NBRU boss Dermot O’Leary said that there was “nothing substantial” on offer at the LRC talks yesterday.

Paschal Donohoe said he was “extremely disappointed” that there was no resolution.

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