herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Strike halted but clock is ticking on Dublin Bus row

Dublin buses back in action. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Dublin buses back in action. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

DUBLIN'S buses were back on the road today much to the relief of commuters.

Crunch negotiations between Dublin Bus management and unions were underway at the Labour Relations Commission this afternoon.

But as the two sides finally sat down to talk, no deadline was put in place for a deal to be struck.

Dublin Bus is looking to make €11.7m in savings but has agreed to hold off on implementing any changes to work practices until after the talks.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar warned that the discussions "cannot go on forever".

There had already been 14 months of negotiations before drivers walked off the job on Sunday.

The sides are now under pressure to reach a consensus within days after Mr Varadkar made clear the discussions are not open-ended.

Much to the relief of hundreds of thousands of passengers, buses were back to normal this morning.

The impasse was broken by an invitation from the chairman of the Labour Court to attend exploratory talks today.

It came after three days of strike action.

Dispute

Assistant general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, Dermot O'Leary, told the Herald that his union was always open for talks.

"There was no need to convince this trade union to get in for talks. I have no idea how long they are going to go on for," he said.

Mr O'Leary said that certainty about how cost-saving at the company was going to be achieved was among his members' main concerns.

Businesses estimate the dispute cost Dublin city between €2m-€4m in lost revenue yesterday alone, with pubs, restaurants and cafes hardest hit.

About 400,000 journeys are made on Dublin Bus services on a working day. The firm estimated the dispute had cost it €1m.

Staff at the semi-State company downed tools at midnight on Saturday over the unilateral implementation of Labour Court recommendations aimed at making €11.7m in savings.

In a statement, SIPTU branch organiser Willie Noone said: "Our members will cease strike action on confirmation from Dublin Bus that it will withdraw its currently unacceptable cost cutting measures while talks take place."

Talks

Ahead of the talks Dublin Bus welcomed the "exploratory talks".

"As requested by the Labour Court, Dublin Bus will suspend the implementation of the Labour Court recommendation to enable these talks to proceed," a spokeswoman said.

However, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said: "I can confirm these talks cannot go on forever and we can't have endless talks like we've had for the last 14 months. What will be figured out very soon is whether there is a basis for agreement."

comurphy@herald.ie

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