Unions representing all three CIE companies are cautiously welcoming an invitation to meet with the Department of Transport tomorrow but warned that the next phase of their strike action set for next week will go ahead.
The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) said tomorrow’s meeting, set up following a conciliatory letter from the Department of Transport, was “a sign of a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“We have an open mind about this but we can’t forget what happened in March when during the course of discussions with the Minister he went to the newspapers and made a statement saying he was going to go ahead with his plans regardless of the consequences to anybody else,” said NBRU general secretary Liam Tobin.
Last month, bus and rail workers began their campaign against the break-up of CIE by staging a no fares day at a cost of over 1.5m lost fares.
Next Tuesday, August 19, will see CIE workers down tools to hold protest marches between peak travel times. A similar protest took place last January when the country was without public transport for four hours.
Next week’s stoppage is due to be followed by further industrial action on September 16, October 14 and November 18, followed by a two-day strike on December the eighth and ninth.
Mr Tobin said the CIE unions and workers were not against change or improvements for passengers but needed reassurances that any measures planned took into account the concerns and needs of employees.
“We need assurances that the Minister won’t repeat his actions of April. We are also waiting to see how meaningful these discussions are actually going to be,” he said.
Tomorrow’s meeting, which was prompted by a letter to the unions from the secretary general of the Department of Transport Julie O’Neill, will not be attended by minister Brennan himself who is currently on annual leave.
However suggestions that the meeting represented a climbdown by Minister Brennan at the request of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were denied by his spokesperson who said the Department would not be raising the issue of the impending strike action but simply wanted “to engage in a substantive manner in order to make progress on the many issues involved.”
Mr Brennan wants to divide CIÉ into three companies and open 25% of the Dublin Bus market to competition. The Minister has repeatedly insisted that Dublin Bus will not be sold and no compulsory redundancies will result from his plans.