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Dublin commuters facing weeks of disruption as bus drivers announce more strikes

Published 15/09/2016

Dublin Bus vehicles parked at a depot, as a fresh 48-hour stoppage is planned
Dublin Bus vehicles parked at a depot, as a fresh 48-hour stoppage is planned

Hundreds of thousands of commuters are facing weeks of disruption as Dublin Bus drivers step up their strike action in a deepening pay dispute.

Union bosses have confirmed 13 more stoppages over the coming one-and-a-half months.

The escalation will see the capital's bus fleet ground to a halt for more than a third of October.

Newly-announced stoppages this month will take place on September 27 and 28.

These are in addition to the 48-hour strike already scheduled for next week, on September 23 and 24.

Next month, further strike days are planned for October 1, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 18, 19, 24, 26 and 29.

The capital is in the midst of a 48-hour stoppage after buses were ordered back to depots at 9pm on Wednesday.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), blamed political leaders and transport chiefs for not negotiating with bus drivers on what he described as a long overdue pay rise.

"What is particularly galling here is the undisputed fact that this dispute will ultimately be settled around the negotiating table," he said.

"Allowing service disruptions to become the de-facto norm in the nation's capital is a sad indictment on those who are both elected and appointed to provide this vital service."

Trade union Siptu said five unions, including itself, the NBRU and Unite, had agreed to ratchet up the industrial action at a meeting on Thursday.

Organiser Owen Reidy claimed Dublin Bus bosses and Department of Transport officials have little interest in resolving the row.

"What is needed is for all sides to commit to a serious negotiation process and display fresh thinking concerning the funding of Dublin's public bus system," he said.

"Workers are no longer prepared to be a soft touch whose pay is suppressed to subsidise a declining state subvention."

Unite has already threatened a potential further escalation when the unions meet again next month to review their action.

Dublin Bus has denounced the walk-outs as unnecessary and unjustified.

"To date, this industrial action has cost the company in excess of four million euro and continues to impact the financial stability of the company," a company spokeswoman said.

"We will now assess the full implications of today's announcement."

Dublin Bus is adamant it is open to negotiations, but believes they must hinge on the terms of a Labour Court recommendation for a pay increase of 8.25% over three years.

Trade unions say the vast majority of their members have already rejected this recommendation and they want fresh talks on their demands for a 15% salary hike.

The city was hit with two days of traffic gridlock last week as people turned to private cars and taxis - which reported a threefold jump in business - during the first planned two-day strike.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said he greatly regrets the grave inconvenience caused to the travelling public by the ongoing dispute.

His spokesman said: "He is acutely aware of calls for him to directly intervene but must reiterate, that as any ministerial intervention could be interpreted as a commitment to open the State chequebook, it would be inappropriate for him to do so.

"He again calls on management and the unions to engage with each other immediately."

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