Taoiseach appeals to bus unions to call off bank holiday strike
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has issued a plea to bus workers to step back from their threat of a damaging strike.
But one of the key unions involved has upped the stakes by making it clear it cannot negotiate on the transfer of staff to private firms.
Commuters in Dublin and across the country face transport chaos on the next bank holiday weekend as a nationwide bus strike is threatened for Friday, May 1.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said today that it will not discuss transferring its members in Bus Eireann or Dublin Bus to private firms expected to tender for the opening up of 10pc of routes.
The routes' plan dates back years, but it has been consistently opposed by bus staff who argue it will hit pay, pensions and conditions.
The NBRU is planning a May Day strike over the issue, and has warned of further industrial unrest in the coming weeks and months.
Members of the other union involved, SIPTU, have also voted for industrial action.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary has sent a letter outlining members' concerns to Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Mr O'Leary disputed the minister's view that both sides made progress at marathon talks on the issue at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
The NBRU leader did not accept Mr Donohoe's assurances on pension rights especially, and insisted there can be no transfer of workers from Dublin Bus or Bus Eireann to private operators.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny urged both sides to re-engage in negotiations.
"The strike should be called off, in my view," he said. "One of the objectives of the LRC negations was to enable the vast majority of employees to remain within Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.
"In addition, those employees who might transfer would have their terms and conditions and pension benefits maintained."
Mr O'Leary accepted that LRC talks have focused on the growth of the bus market. The Government argues that this growth is an opportunity for private operators to increase their number of buses.
But Mr O'Leary also told RTE that the National Transport Authority (NTA), while supportive of the general idea, had signalled that the issue of related funding was a matter for the Government.
He said his members fear for the future of Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus after 2019, the deadline for further deregulation.