Transport Minister Shane Ross has warned he will not intervene in the Dublin Bus strike, saying he is not a “sugar daddy” and cannot be expected to “ride in on a white horse and shining armour with a cheque book”.
Mr Ross’s refusal to get directly involved came as Dublin Bus chief executive Ray Coyne warned striking workers of the “catastrophic” impact of their actions, claiming the move risks cancelling the firm’s recovery and that their pay rise request will cost €50m by 2018.
Speaking at the Dáil transport committee, Mr Ross accepted that the strike — which will see Dublin Bus services grind to a halt again tomorrow and Saturday — was causing havoc.
However, he said he has no intention of getting involved as the issue needs to be resolved by unions and management.
“I know you say I should open the cheque book, but I’m not going to,” Mr Ross told AAA-PBP TD Mick Barry.
“I’m not going to ride in on a white horse and shining armour, saying I have a cheque book,” he said, adding later he is not a “sugar daddy” for the industry.
The comments provoked anger from some members of the transport committee, with Mr Barry accusing Mr Ross of failing commuters who are stuck in the middle of the crisis.
The Cork North Central TD said Mr Ross must “get off the fence” and accept that “real talks” are dependent on him “opening the cheque book”, pointing out that the Government is not unconnected to the issue as Dublin Bus has seen its State funding levels dwindle from €86m in 2008 to just €58m.
“High fares but also low pay has subsidised that,” said Mr Barry, adding that on a recent European list of funding levels for bus services in major cities, Dublin finished “ninth on the list, out of nine”.
Commuters are bracing themselves for a third work stoppage tomorrow and Saturday due to the pay row between drivers’ unions and management.
Strikes are scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, and October 1, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 18, 19, 24, 26, and 29.
Dublin Bus drivers are seeking a 15% pay increase over three years as they are being asked to work longer hours despite not receiving a pay rise since 2008.
In a letter to striking workers yesterday, Mr Coyne said the action risks cancelling out the firm’s recession recovery, has already cost €4m, and could be “catastrophic” for the company.
Mr Ross has been reluctant to become involved in the escalating crisis since the first work stoppages took place at the start of this month.
While this position is officially based on his desire for the unions and management to resolve the matters themselves, it also comes at a time when Bus Éireann and Irish Rail workers are also seeking pay rises.
- Stephen Rogers
National bus strikes are looking increasingly likely after Bus Éireann told driver unions that not only are they not in line for a pay increase but that cutbacks are likely for its Expressway service.
The company said it incurred a €5.6m loss in 2015 and is forecasting a similar loss for 2016, mainly due to losses on its Expressway services.
“Any further increase to our costs increases the risk for all employees, so the business must urgently address its losses to survive,” a spokeswoman said. “The business requires immediate cost savings of €7m and our existing commercial Expressway services — which are not State-subsidised — need to generate an annual profit to survive.”
Bus Éireann said the cost savings had to be found internally and not through cuts to services. Therefore, it said it had prepared a plan to “transform and restructure” Expressway into a sustainable business.
The largest driver union in the company, the National Bus and Rail Union, said it is to ballot members for industrial action “in reaction to company plans to turn Expressway into a low-wage bus service”.
General secretary Dermot O’Leary said the livelihoods of 800 Bus Éireann workers are threatened. “There are huge question-marks over the Department of Transport and its stewardship of State-owned public transport services, cutting off vital financial support and overseeing a licencing regime which has now led to the potential decimation of an Expressway service that connects into every nook and cranny in rural Ireland.”
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