A resolution to the Dublin Bus pay dispute is not getting any closer after unions announced a further 13 strike days and Transport Minister Shane Ross refused to intervene in the deepening row.
With the company losing €600,000 for each day that drivers strike, it denounced the planned action days as unnecessary and unjustified.
Passengers are facing a second successive day today without services in Dublin, and the prospect of another 48-hour stoppage next Friday and Saturday were previously announced.
But in addition, Dublin Bus services are now also scheduled to come to a halt on September 27 and 28. The extra strike dates roll through to the end of October, with most planned between two and four days apart but a 48-hour stoppage proposed again on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 18 and 19, if the dispute remains unresolved.
However, if the threat of increased disruption was designed to prompt Government involvement, the unions’ tactic appears to have backfired.
The Department of Transport said yesterday evening that Minister Shane Ross greatly regrets the “grave inconvenience” caused to the travelling public. But he called on management and unions to engage with each other immediately.
“He is acutely aware of calls for him to directly intervene but must reiterate, that as any ministerial intervention could be interpreted as a commitment to open the State cheque book, it would be inappropriate for him to do so,” Mr Ross’s department said.
It followed the laying of the blame for escalation directly at the Government’s door by Unite regional officer Willie Quigley.
“The Government’s continued disengagement from this dispute is particularly ironic given the current problems are largely due to the continued shrinkage of the subvention to Dublin Bus,” he said.
The company said it would assess the implications of the unions’ announcement of additional strike days.
“To date, this industrial action has cost the company in excess of €4m and continues to impact the financial stability of the company,” a company spokesperson said.
Dublin Bus is adamant it is open to negotiations, but it says they must hinge on the terms of a Labour Court recommendation for a pay increase of 8.25% over three years.
National Bus and Railworkers’ Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the company’s offer to talk included a pre-condition that worker productivity would be required. He said a previous proposal involving productivity had been rejected by unions so the idea can not be on the table going into any fresh negotiations.
With staff having got the company back to profitability, he likened productivity demands in return for further pay rises to asking staff to pay for their own increases.
“Workers in Dublin Bus have no problem talking about productivity if this matter has been resolved,” Mr O’Leary said.
He acknowledged the disruption to passengers but said union members were also losing out on pay for each day they are out on strike.
It is not just the bus company and its staff who are feeling the effects, however, as Dublin Chamber of Commerce warned the threat of more service cuts is affecting businesses’ ability to make strategic jobs decisions, while working arrangements have had to be altered because of the impact on employees.
But it also said that a significant lack of investment in Dublin’s transport infrastructure over the past decade means the city grinds to a halt when one cog in the machine goes down.
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