Thursday 18 January 2018

Ross won't intervene to resolve bus strikes

Heavy traffic around the Financial Services Centre yesterday Picture: Doug O'Connor
Heavy traffic around the Financial Services Centre yesterday Picture: Doug O'Connor

Transport Minister Shane Ross is refusing to intervene in the pay row at Dublin Bus because he believes it could be seen as a commitment to resolve the issue with exchequer funds.

Fianna Fail transport spokesmen Robert Troy has urged the minister to instruct Dublin Bus management to re-enter talks with unions and make an increased pay offer in return for productivity.

Around 400,000 people faced commuter chaos on Thursday and yesterday as drivers went on strike in pursuit of a 15pc pay increase.

In July workers rejected an 8.25pc increase suggested by the Labour Court.

Mr Ross has been criticised for his inaction by the Opposition as well as unions, who could escalate the row.

However, hopes that the minister might step in have been dealt a blow, with a spokeswoman saying he has no intention of intervening.

"Minister Ross is aware of calls for him to directly intervene in this dispute," she said.

"However, as any intervention by a sitting minister could be seen as a commitment to resolve this issue with additional taxpayers' funds, he believes it is inappropriate to do so.

"The only way this dispute will be resolved is if all parties re-engage to find a reasonable resolution, and they can use the state mechanisms available to facilitate this.


"The minister empathises with commuters, students and local business owners who have all been adversely affected by this dispute and hopes it will reach a swift conclusion."

The statement is likely to further inflame the row, as the central argument by unions is that Dublin Bus has been severely under-funded.

While Mr Ross did not mention the striking drivers, Fianna Fail has offered the workers tacit support in their claim.

Fianna Fail's Robert Troy said Mr Ross ultimately had the power to instruct Dublin Bus to negotiate.

"I think to be fair the drivers. over the last seven or eight years, have made many sacrifices in terms of their pay and in terms of some of their conditions," Mr Troy said.

"They have shown their bona fides. They have shown their commitment to the organisation, and they just want to be acknowledged and rewarded for that.

"There's an opportunity based on further productivity to increase that pay claim further. I think there's room to increase that."

Mr Troy was extremely critical of Mr Ross's handling of the dispute.

"He has been very mute and absent in the last number of days," he said.

"I think he now needs to realise he is no longer a columnist in the Sunday Independent newspaper.

"He should instruct Dublin Bus to go back to the table," he said.

Dublin Bus has already been notified of further days of strike action - this coming Thursday and Friday and the following Friday and Saturday.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU), told the Herald further action was being considered.

"It's next Thursday, and an all-out strike will be considered. Obviously, the decision is not mine and we will listen to the guidance of members," he said.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said the chronic problems faced by commuters during the two-day strike were totally unacceptable and appealed to unions to accept the Labour Court pay recommendations.


The former Transport Minister said he personally favoured opening up bus lanes in a bid to ease gridlock around the capital during strikes, but received safety advice to the contrary.

"When it comes to bus lanes, when I had bus strikes during my time as minister I wanted to open the lanes," he said.

However, he said it was impossible for the reason that the lanes were still being used and it could lead to traffic collisions.

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