Transport Minister "aloof" on rural issues

Minster Ross will go before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to discuss the Bus Éireann dispute this afternoon

A union representing Bus Éireann workers has accused the Minister for Transport of holding himself “aloof” on issues affecting rural Ireland.

The general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that he has no faith in Transport Minister Shane Ross.

“To lose faith in someone you have to have faith in them in the first place,” he said. “I try to stay away from personalities but it is very difficult when you have a minister who chooses to remain aloof on issues that impact on rural Ireland - but he is very, very vocal on issues that happen on his own doorstep.

“That is very difficult for us [...] to put to one side when you are trying to have a debate.”

The Minister has admitted the company will need greater public investment in the coming years - but insisted he will not become embroiled in the current dispute.

During a Dáil debate on the future of the company yesterday evening, Minister Ross suggested involving himself would, “cut across the respective roles of the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.”

Increased public funding

He said the government is prepared to increase funding for Bus Éireann’s non-commercial services, “as resources allow.”

“I know our system needs more money, despite the fact that we have spent around €2.3bn since 2008,” he said.

“I am committed on the socially necessary services but I am [also] committed on the PSO [Public Service Obligation] subvention as resources allow.”

The Minister is due to go before the Oireachtas Transport committee this afternoon to address the ongoing crisis at the company.

He will reportedly raise the possibility of increased government subsidies for the Free Travel Service while again insisting the government cannot fund the company’s loss-making commercial Expressway operation.

Three of the unions representing the workers - SIPTU, NBRU and UNITE - now have a mandate from their members to take industrial action.

UNITE members last night voted unanimously for strike action.

The unions are due to meet tomorrow to discuss their next move.