As officials of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) prepare for an emergency meeting tomorrow, the union’s general secretary Liam Tobin predicted transport chaos nationwide within two weeks.
NBRU members originally balloted for strike action last summer which began with a no-fares day in August. However, they agreed to postpone any stoppages after talks with Department of Transport secretary general Julie O’Neill were established.
Now, in a repeat of his tactics with Aer Rianta unions, Transport Minister Seamus Brennan has angered the NBRU by bypassing the process and announcing his intentions through the press.
“The minister has destroyed any integrity those discussions may have had. He has undermined that bit of trust the discussions aimed to achieve,” said Mr Tobin
The last meeting between the Department of Transport took place on December 16 and was followed two days later by press statements in which Mr Brennan reaffirmed his intentions to break up CIÉ.
On December 23, even as a letter from Ms O’Neill sought to reassure the union that Mr Brennan was committed to talks, NBRU officials learned from a press report the minister had begun to implement his plans by ending the position of CIÉ chairman.
It is expected tomorrow’s meeting of the union’s executive will again clear the way for a strike, which would halt public transport services just as Ireland’s EU presidency begins. A reinstatement of last summer’s deferred industrial action will likely be agreed and could be put into effect in weeks, said Mr Tobin.
“Two weeks is not unrealistic at all. We are not required to go to ballot this time,” he said.
Mr Tobin also said he was confident of support from other CIE unions.
“I know all the other unions are as incensed as we are with what the minister has done,” he said.
As well as writing to the Taoiseach before Christmas to complain of the minister’s behaviour, the NBRU this weekend wrote to Julie O’Neill to outline how it had cooperated with change and complained that the minister’s December snubs had been the last straw.
A spokesman for Mr Brennan said he remained committed to discussions and had first laid out his policies in November 2002, aimed at increasing choice and better value for money.
The spokesman said Mr Brennan was under constant pressure to outline his policies and reserved the right to do so.
“The fact that there are clear differences over these policies is widely known.
“However, all involved should be big enough to rise above these differences,” the spokesman said.