Bus unions are to announce a range of targeted strike actions today as the crisis in Bus Éireann intensifies.
Reacting to calls to intervene in the standoff between the bus company and unions, Transport Minister Shane Ross said his intervention “would do more damage than good”.
He called on both sides to go into negotiations “with a blank sheet of paper” but added that he did not believe a range of cost-cutting measures announced by Bus Éireann amounted to pre-conditions.
Dermot O’Leary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) accused Mr Ross of “talking out of both sides of his mouth” on the issue.
While SIPTU called on the Government to accept that that the union should not be expected to enter talks with the management of Bus Éireann until it has removed all its pre-conditions concerning changes and cuts at the company.
Unions representing Bus Éireann workers are due to meet today where they will decide on what action they will take in response to the new measures, including cuts to overtime rates, Sunday premiums and allowances.
Bus Éireann have warned that the company could go bankrupt before the year end, with the loss of 2,600 jobs, if emergency measures are not introduced.
They plan on implementing the new measures from February 20.
Union sources said they will sign off on a range of industrial actions to begin on Februray 20, at today’s meeting.
It is expected that only some services would be halted as part of the strike action as members are conscious that many people in rural areas heavily depend on Bus Éireann services.
It is understood that certain bus depots or bus routes would be targeted on particular days as part of the strike action.
Appearing before the Transport Committee Mr Ross maintained that he cannot intervene in the dispute.
“I am a shareholder I am not party to this industrial dispute,” he said.
“Don’t ask me deputy to get involved on a daily basis on the work of management, who we have been appointed to do this particular job,” he said in response to questioning from Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy who said he didn’t expect the minister to “micro-manage”.
Mr Ross added: “This dispute will be resolved, as was the Luas dispute, with me staying out of it. My intervention would do more damage than good.”
Mr Ross added that he had been meeting with the heads of the company on a regular basis.
He added: “I think you will find that some of them are pretty well fed up with trodding up and down to my office because I am monitoring the situation very very carefully indeed.”
Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Bus Éireann is now in a “perilous” state, and also urged both the unions and the company management to begin negotiations.
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