Updated: 27/03/17 : 05:32:04
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Fears of all-out rail and bus strike from Wednesday

As the Bus Éireann strike enters its fourth day there are growing fears in Sligo that a repeat of the major disruption to public transport on Friday could happen again on Wednesday as plans for protests to increase pressure on Minister for Transport Shane Ross are being considered.

Irish Rail workers last Friday refused to cross the Sligo bus drivers' picket on the first day of the Bus Éireann strike at the shared facility causing the cancellation of all rail services to and from Dublin.

The rail schedules reurned to normal on Saturday and yesterday, and It is understood that normal services are in operation today.

The Irish Times reports that then ongoing strike at Bus Éireann has disrupted the travel plans of more than 100,000 people in recent days and could escalate this week. Sources close to the dispute said protests planned to coincide with an appearance by Mr Ross at the Oireachtas transport committee on Wednesday afternoon could draw in workers from Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann and widen disruption.

Bus Éireann directors are due to meet this morning to consider plans that could involve up to 300 job losses as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Unions have criticised Mr Ross for refusing to intervene in the dispute, which follows management plans to introduce cost-saving measures without agreement. Mr Ross has repeatedly said he will not become involved in an industrial dispute.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) last night called on Mr Ross to “provide leadership” by establishing a forum for talks.

Not an option

The union said the protection of jobs and Expressway routes at Bus Éireann was “paramount” and that a “race to the bottom” was not an option.

















    Striking Bus Éireann drivers man the picket line yesterday, Sunday, in Sligo. Photo: SligoToday.ie

Bus Éireann services, with the exception of school transport, came to a standstill on Friday, forcing about 100,000 people to change their travel plans. Rail services were disrupted in a number of locations [including Sligo] as workers in Iarnród Éireann did not pass pickets at depots they share with bus workers.

Train services returned to normal at the weekend.

However, highly placed sources warned that they could be affected again this week because protests could be “ramped up” later if there is no move to resolve the row.

Employment lawyers said Bus Éireann staff can place pickets at their place of employment, but they could face potential legal difficulties if they seek to involve workers in other companies.

Unrostered and unplanned

Since January, Bus Éireann management has introduced a ban on unrostered and unplanned overtime, which unions argue has seen some drivers lose between €90 and €150 a week.

Last week, it produced a list of nearly 50 efficiency and cost-saving measures - including a demand that drivers finally start to use fuel-saving technology that was installed on 270 buses some years ago.

In January, acting chief executive Ray Hernan told an Oireachtas committee that a 1 per cent cut in fuel usage would save the company €350,000 a year, but drivers refuse to turn on the telematic technology, which involves the use of GPS tracking technology.

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann also wants drivers to carry out what are known as first-user checks, which includes checking a vehicle’s tyres before it is taken out on the road.

Management sources have maintained that drivers had previously argued this represented an additional duty and they would do it only if they were paid extra.

Last week, Siptu and the NBRU outlined steps that they said could end the dispute, including an agreement to protect private and public bus workers’ terms and conditions.

In addition, the two unions called for greater State funding for Bus Éireann and talks that directly involve the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport.

See SligoToday 25/3/2017