Bus Éireann talks to resume as strikes enter third week

The Transport Minister was confronted by a group of angry Bus Éireann workers yesterday over his response to the crisis

Talks between trade unions and management at Bus Éireann will resume at the Work Place Relations Commission today.

Tens of thousands of commuters have been affected by the strike action for the past 16 days.

The dispute centres around the company’s proposed survival plan – which involves significant cuts to workers pay and conditions.

Unions are refusing to accept the cuts without agreement, while management have said the company is on the brink of insolvency – and will go out of business unless large-scale savings can be made.

Hours of talks have so far failed to reach any agreement – with unions on Friday describing progress as “slow” 

Unions and staff have also been criticizing the Transport Minister Shane Ross for what they describe as a “lack of action” to help solve the dispute.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union told Newstalk that the issues up for discussion are “complex”:

“They are lots of grades to work through. We have worked through some of the issues pertaining to lots of those grades.”

“I suppose after 15 days in dispute people will understand that those issues must be complex otherwise they wouldn’t be so long a) in dispute and b) involved in discussion.”

Yesterday Minster Ross was confronted by a group of Bus Éireann members of the NBRU and SIPTU as he attempted to open a new cycleway in Athlone.

He has consistently refused to involve himself in the negotiations – and workers accused him of “sawing the bottom leg off the ladder” with regard to Ireland’s public transport system.

Unions and opposition politicians have accused the minister of engaging in a race to the bottom and attempting to undermine “the very concept of a public transport company.”

The country’s public service order subvention for bus services from the government is nearly 20% below what it was 8 years ago.

Bus Éireann’s subvention level decreased from €49.4m in 2009 to a low of €33.7m in 2015 – before rising to €40.8m in 2016.

Minister Ross told the gathered workers that he is “very happy” to meet with all stakeholders in the public transport system once the current industrial relations dispute is over:

“That includes trade unions, management, the National Transport Authority, our department, myself – anybody that has a stake in transport,” he said.

“I have said that in a public forum or a private forum and I am making that offer to you again now; that we will do that and we will consider those issues.”

Talks at the WRC are due to get underway at 11am this morning.