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Sunday 25 September 2016

'I won't be sugar daddy in dispute', warns Ross as double strike looms

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has further alienated himself from striking Dublin Bus staff, saying he will not "rescue" the dispute by writing a cheque.

With a third week of strikes set to go ahead tomorrow, the under-fire minister said he will not act as "some sort of sugar Daddy" by helping to fund a 15pc pay rise being sought by staff over the next three years.

This comes as Dublin Bus chief Ray Coyne warned that the crippling campaign of industrial action will cost €21m and leave the company in a "catastrophic" financial position.

In more bad news for commuters, the threat of a double bus strike strengthened after the largest union at Bus Eireann announced a ballot over plans to turn Expressway into a "low-wage bus service".

Bombshell

The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) accused the company of dropping a bombshell with proposals that "threaten the livelihoods of 800 workers".

The company revealed plans to implement new terms and conditions for Expressway workers, a separate business from the rest of Bus Eireann, and sub-contract some routes.

Unions also reacted angrily after chief executive Martin Nolan, in a letter to staff, ruled out pay rises because the company's finances are "in a critical position".

Mr Nolan said no pay increases "can be contemplated" as the company expects losses of €6m this year, following losses of €5.6m last year.

Dublin Bus strikes planned for tomorrow and Saturday are to go ahead, while more action is planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday, September 27 and 28.

This will be followed by more strike action on Saturday, October 1 - the day of the All-Ireland football final replay at Croke Park - followed by a further 10 strike dates in October.

Mr Coyne has appealed to the 3,364-strong Dublin Bus workforce to get back into talks and avoid further disruption.

He said the strikes have the potential to return the company to a "post-2010 financial crisis".

With Mr Ross unwilling to get involved, it appears that the onus is on the Workplace Relations Commission to intervene in the dispute.

Meeting

Although Siptu, the NBRU and Dublin Bus say they are willing to engage in talks, the commission does not appear ready to invite the parties to a meeting.

The unions say they are prepared to negotiate without preconditions, but Dublin Bus says it will engage on the basis that any pay rises above 8.25pc must be funded by extra worker productivity.

Speaking at a Dail committee yesterday, Mr Ross warned politicians it was "really not going to help the situation to try to draw the minister into a battle in which he is not going to get engaged".

"I've said that I'm not going to produce the chequebook," he said.

"You're going to have to believe this and both sides are going to have to believe that."

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