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Tuesday 27 September 2016

'It wouldn't be helpful if I intervened in bus dispute', claims Ross

Dublin Bus’ union Siptu is balloting its members over pay
Dublin Bus’ union Siptu is balloting its members over pay

Transport Minister Shane Ross has denied remaining silent as travel chaos looms for commuters in the capital.

Industrial action, including all-out strikes, could take place at Dublin Bus as early as next month, with a second union set to back strike action today.

There are fears that the strike action may be timed to coincide with next month's return to school, but no decision on what action might be taken has yet been made.

Denied

However, despite the continuing dispute, Dublin Rathdown TD Shane Ross has not intervened, and when questioned he denied that the Government had not been doing enough to ensure the city's transport operators run smoothly.

It is down to state bodies such as the Labour Court to solve the problem, according to the minister.

"We haven't been silent on the issue," said Mr Ross.

"What we've done is we've left it so far to the state bodies set up to actually solve these industrial disputes.

"We've asked that both parties get together and talk again, and we're urging them to do so. I don't think it would be helpful if I were to intervene at this stage."

The National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) has already agreed to industrial action.

A spokesperson for the minister said he had noted the NBRU's ballot result, but also noted that other unions had still to complete voting.

A ballot of Siptu members - the union represents more than 1,600 drivers - is due to be held today, taking the situation a step closer to strikes.

A number of options ranging from no-fare days and work stoppages to all out-strikes are on the table, but it is understood that workers are leaning toward work stoppages which will have an impact on people trying to get around the city.

Dublin Bus has said it will wait for the results of the ballots of the remaining unions before considering the outcome.

Commuters in the city have already suffered from days of travel chaos on the back of Luas strikes that took place earlier this year.

Luas drivers were on strike for 12 days as part of their pay dispute.

Dermot O'Leary of the NBRU previously said it was unfortunate but seemed likely that workers would be left with the impression that striking was the only way to secure a pay rise.

More people will be affected if Dubin Bus staff follow the same template set out by Luas drivers as more passengers use the service every day and a wider area is covered by the bus network.

At the moment drivers earn up to €39,000 a year when their shift and premium allowances are taken into account.

However, they are now seeking a pay deal that will bring them into line with tram drivers who stand to earn up to €53,000 a year when their recently-won pay increase comes into effect.

Bus drivers rejected a pay deal from the Labour Court earlier this year and have repeatedly stated that they want to be paid in line with Luas drivers.

Argued

The company made a profit last year, and unions representing the drivers have argued that this should be considered when deliberating on their request for a pay increase.

Siptu organiser Owen Reidy said Dublin Bus workers have already suffered enough cuts.

"People are determined to bring this to a just solution. They've suffered cuts in earnings up to 5pc," he said.

This is despite the fact that revenues rose by a third between 2010 and last year.

State funding also dropped by 24pc in the same period, which points to underfunding by the state, said Mr Reidy.

"It should be investing when passenger numbers are growing," he said.

"Workers aren't going to subsidise subsidy cuts."

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