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Friday 28 April 2017

Fears of city transport chaos if more workers back Bus Eireann strike

Bus Eireann workers on the picket line at the Broadstone depot
Bus Eireann workers on the picket line at the Broadstone depot

Commuters could be facing a week of severe disruption as Dublin Bus drivers and Irish rail workers consider a protest in support of their striking Bus Eireann colleagues.

Sources revealed industrial action is set to escalate as workers at all three CIE companies may attend a protest at the Dail on Wednesday, when Transport Minister Shane Ross is due to appear before an Oireachtas committee.

It is understood that workers are considering the protest as a show of solidarity with those on strike at Bus Eireann over its decision to impose cuts that would reduce their earnings without agreement.

Unions have claimed that changes to working practices that are being imposed will cut pay by up to 30pc.

Action

Bus Eireann wants €12m in payroll cuts as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan that it will present to its board today as it faces the threat of insolvency by May.

It will discuss a management plan to cut 300 jobs through a voluntary redundancy programme.

However, the company could go bust within a fortnight, as it has roughly €7m in cash reserves but is losing €500,000 a day during the strike.

Some Irish Rail drivers took unofficial action on the first day of the strike last Friday by refusing to pass pickets at shared depots, hitting inter-city services.

It is also understood they failed to show up to work at a depot in Cork in solidarity with colleagues from Bus Eireann.

So far, their colleagues at Dublin Bus have not taken supportive action, while school bus drivers will not take a decision until later this week.

Services ground to a halt on Friday as the 2,600-strong Bus Eireann workforce mounted an indefinite all-out strike.

Siptu Transport Organiser Willie Noone said Mr Ross should appoint an industrial relations troubleshooter to help resolve the complex dispute, as he said there are too many staff to reach agreement on efficiencies within a very short time frame.

He said a voluntary redundancy plan is the only solution if efficiencies mean there is a surplus of staff, but it must not be funded by cuts to earnings.

Anger

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of Irish Rural Link, Seamus Boland, said it had been inundated with calls from passengers who were unsure how they could travel during the strike.

He said many people were concerned that rail services would be hit again.

Mr Boland said on Friday he saw a young man plead with a Citylink driver to let him on a bus, which then left many passengers on the side of the road because it was too full.

"There is a lot of anger and people are trying to figure out what way they're going to travel," he said. "It's a vital service. It's not just workers at Tesco that have gone on strike.

"Those who use it don't have a lot of choice."

He said he expects traffic congestion today as many people arrange lifts to get around.

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