Updated: 24/03/17 : 06:07:43
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All-out indefinite bus strike begins

Over 110,000 commuters will be affected today as the Bus Éireann fleet of buses will be picket bound at their various depots across the country due to an indefinite strike over the company's implementation of cost reduction measures without union agreement.

Traffic chaos is expected in cities as many commuters return to cars.

The strike began at a minute past midnight this morning after five trade unions, representing 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann, held a three-hour meeting yesterday, Thursday.

In Sligo, along with all Inter city services, all town buses plus the Strandhill and Rosss Point service have ceased for the unforeseen future.

The general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O’Leary said last night that there were seven locations where Bus Éireann and Irish Rail share facilities. He described these as 'flashpoints'.

Emphasising that while there was no dispute, at this time, with Ianród Éireann (Irish Rail), rail workers turning up for work this morning would be reluctant to pass the Bus Éireann picket line.

Sligo is one of the seven locations.

Iaranrod Éireann has announced there will be significant disruption to train services because of the bus strike. There will be limited services on the intercity trains between Dublin and Sligo, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford.

Sligo Today can confirm that the first two trains from Sligo this morning were cancelled and a source said it is unlikely that any will run today.

Nationally the work stoppage will also affect about 1,500 children who use regular Bus Éireann services under the school transport scheme.

The company’s separate fleet of school buses which operate under the scheme will not be affected by the strike although the trade union Siptu warned that it could become embroiled in the dispute “very quickly”.

      A picket has also been mounted at the Bus Éireann garage on Union St. Photo: SligoToday.ie

The decision to launch the indefinite strike followed the move by management on Wednesday to implement unilaterally nearly 50 work-practice changes and efficiency measures. The company argued that the measures were essential if it was to have a viable and sustainable future.

Bus Éireann has warned that the strike will worsen the company's financial situation, which it has described as perilous and that this serious escalation of the dispute could push the company over the edge.

It lost €9.4 million last year and a further  €50,000 a day in January. But each strike day will cost another half a million which the company insists is unsustainable.

However the unions say management are determined to “drive a State-owned company into becoming a yellow-pack employer”.

The National Transport Authority has reminded passengers that there are alternative private operators on many routes.

However, if Bus Éireann passengers defect to them, they may never return, further damaging revenue at the state-owned company.

The employers group Ibec said a strike was in “no one’s interest”, while Retail Excellence said the action “will cause havoc for our retailers who will see a negative impact on footfall and retail sales activity at a time when they can least absorb it”.

No further talks between the unions and the company are planned at present.