herald

Monday 1 May 2017

'I won't open chequebook over Bus Eireann row', says Ross

Transport Minister Shane Ross
Transport Minister Shane Ross

Transport Minister Shane Ross has said he will not get involved in the Bus Eireann dispute - even if workers stage an all-out strike.

Mr Ross said calls from some of the parties involved were based on nothing other than an attempt to force him "to produce the chequebook".

"I've taken the position all along that it's not up to me. It would be wrong for a minister to become involved in an industrial dispute, and I intend to stay out of the industrial dispute," he said.

"What I'd like to see, and what I'm urging, is that the parties get together."

Earlier this week, the Independent Alliance minister was described by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin as a "Pontius Pilate" character hiding from the looming chaos at Bus Eireann.

The company has said it could be insolvent by May if it does not reduce its pay bill by €12m.

Management wants to make savings on overtime, spare driver arrangements, hiring buses, bonuses, sick pay, expenses and flexibility.

Three routes - Dublin-Clonmel, Athlone-Westport and Dublin-Derry - may also be axed in a bid to save €1.1m.

Nonsense

Mr Ross said the Fianna Fail claims were "nonsense".

"It's not my business to be involved in an industrial dispute," he said.

"I've made that absolutely clear. After the industrial dispute is over, I'm very happy to talk to all parties about policy matters and will certainly do so."

The National Bus and Rail Union has written to the Department of Transport asking for intervention.

In the letter, NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary noted the calls for Mr Ross to get involved.

"The response, or lack of response, to date has been deafening," he said.

"However, it is the potential assistance of the department which particularly interests us at this juncture, bearing in mind the central role it has played in the lead-up to the current dispute."

Mr O'Leary said it would be reasonable for the department to become involved as it is the sole shareholder of CIE "and by extension Bus Eireann".

Asked why he would not intervene, Mr Ross replied: "All parties want me to be in the room because they want me to produce the cheque book. I'm not going to do that."

He added that he "very much" hoped a strike would be averted.

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