Strikes at Dublin Bus look set to go ahead after talks between management and unions failed to resolve the impasse over staff pay and conditions.
After almost five hours of discussions, unions emerged to say no progress had been made. Unless there is another intervention, three 48-hour strikes will now go ahead on September 8 to 9, 15 to 16, and 23 to 24.
A recent Labour Court decision recommending 8.2% increases over three years was comprehensively rejected by the two driver unions at the company, Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU).
They want increases of at least 15% over the same period, as well as the payment of a 6% increase which they say they are due from 2008. There has also been a call for pay parity with Luas drivers, who were given increases amounting to 18% following a protracted dispute with management earlier this year.
Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, said it had warned in advance of talks that “parading all parties through the door to create what has now transpired to be a false and misleading impression that the issue of pay could be magically resolved, was something that staff and commuters would find intolerable”.
He said his members were committed to finding a resolution to the pay dispute. But he said it took more than the commitment of one party to effect an agreement.
“Shirking responsibility, or remaining aloof is not conducive to settling this dispute,” he said. “The onus is now on the shareholder to unshackle the restraints on Dublin Bus and allow it the opportunity to work with its staff towards finding a solution.”
Dublin Bus management said it had advised the trade union group of the “adverse financial implications” of funding any pay increase over and above the Labour Court recommendation.
“However, management advised that it is prepared to engage with all grades of employees in exploring all areas of productivity that can achieve cost savings to fund additional increases in pay over and above the Labour Court Recommendation,” it added.
“Having come through years of financial instability and change, Dublin Bus has a responsibility to continue to manage its finances in order to safeguard the economic and financial stability of the company.”
It said the strikes will inconvenience in excess of 400,000 Dublin Bus customers each day.
Meanwhile, Irish Rail and driver unions appear to be coming closer to reaching an agreement on a reduction in the working week and on productivity. Mr O’Leary said more progress had been made in the the last few weeks than in the last 18 months, and he believed the discussions would reach their “final stages” in three days of talks starting on September 7. The company said it was “optimistic” the talks would have a satisfactory conclusion for both sides.
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