Bus and rail strikes still on cards as unions give go ahead

STRIKE action at all three CIÉ companies remained a possibility last night as SIPTU refused to call off a stoppage planned for March 18.

Despite apparent concessions from Transport Minister Seamus Brennan on Thursday, which were cautiously welcomed by the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU), a meeting of SIPTU’s strike committee yesterday decided against postponing industrial action.

Both unions are resisting Government plans to break up CIÉ and franchise out 25% of Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann routes.

In Thursday’s letter Department of Transport secretary general Julie O’Neill said that, while the department remained committed to franchising 25% of bus routes, Mr Brennan was willing to discuss alternative ways of achieving more access for private operators.

The letter also said Mr Brennan was confident CIÉ could be broken up without the terms and conditions of staff being affected.

After a four-and-a-half hour meeting the committee agreed there was not enough in Mr Brennan’s letter to convince them to withdraw from the agreed dates for industrial action.

However, national industrial secretary Michael Halpenny said the union would be entering the agreed talks process with the department.

“It is with great scepticism that we have agreed to enter a talks process under an independent chairperson.

“If there is an early indication that meaningful progress is being made we will suspend that date for industrial action,” he said.

Meanwhile in a separate dispute, all trains in and out of two western counties were halted again yesterday as six drivers held an unofficial stoppage.

Yesterday’s stoppage forced 2,000 rail passengers from Mayo and Roscommon to make alternative arrangements for the second consecutive Friday as the six drivers serving the line continued their action.

The drivers, who operate out of Westport, are in dispute with Iarnród Éireann over a proposed 100 a week pay rise and also claim the company owes them €11,000 in back pay under new nationally agreed rostering arrangements.

The company is refusing to make payments without changes to the drivers’ roster and claims the drivers involved work a 28-hour week compared with the 48-hour average week worked by all other drivers.

However the drivers, who have already rejected an offer of Labour Court talks, said their average working week is just under 40 hours.

Meanwhile, the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland (CCI) accused CIÉ and Aer Rianta unions of creating uncertainty and disruption and stunting the sort of efficiency gains realised through the private sector.

Speaking before yesterday’s plenary meeting of the social partners at Dublin Castle, CCI president Mark Staunton said ultimately the private sector would be left to pay the price for whatever concessions are forced by what he called the blatant bully tactics of the unions.

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