An estimated 100,000 people are set to be affected by Bus Éireann workers decision to engage in industrial action which was announced late last Thursday evening. Striking began on Friday 24th, with the decision coming as management at Bus Éireann say that the company needs to implement severe cuts if it’s to survive, which would include pay and overtime cuts and changes to bus routes.
The President of the USI (Union of Students in Ireland) Annie Hoey was critical of the breakdown in discussions and the resulting strike. ‘This dispute has gone beyond the dispute between management and workers – it has created a complete gridlock for students seeking to get home and to college’ she said. The UCD Students’ Union have not issued a statement on the issue.
The Union representing the workers at Bus Éireann (the National Bus and Rail workers Union) are displeased with the measures proposed by management to save the company. Although they acknowledge that ‘efficiency changes’ must be made, they say that the proposed changes disproportionately affect drivers. After months of talks between Union and company officials, including a standoff at the Workplace Relations Commission, efforts at finding a resolution between the two sides collapsed. Leading to management implementing their plan without the unions’ backing, and resulting in an indefinite nationwide strike by the unions.
Irish Rail have been forced to cancel multiple services due to picketing, which have added to the disruption faced by many commuters. Spokesperson for Irish Rail Barry Kenny told media that across a number of locations ‘there are pickets that its employees decided not pass’, adding that it had been hoped the company would have a far more extensive rail service by this week. Campus services issued an email to students and faculty alike when news broke of the industrial action, advising of alternative methods for reaching UCD. Commuting manager Ivan Griffin in his email highlighted that an increased level of car traffic can be expected across campus, with students being able to avail of guest parking for €3 a day while striking is in action. The email also serves to highlight a number of private bus routes from rural areas across the country that operate to UCD and urges students to check their websites for further details.
At the time of printing no formal statement has been made by Transport Minister Shane Ross, which coincides with his reaction to earlier industrial action by Bus Éireann in February earlier this year at which point he insisted on not intervening in dispute between the company and union representatives. After coming under sharp criticism for his inaction, Minister Ross justified his reaction by asserting to an Oireachtas committee that enough is being done.
Dublin North-West TD and co-leader of the Social Democrats criticised Minister Ross’ refusal to engage in talks, saying that ‘while we accept the company has a fiduciary responsibility that must be met and efficiencies are therefore necessary, there must be a clear distinction between finding efficiencies and cutting people’s take-home pay’.
Former UCD Labour chair and current trade union (ICTU) worker Grace Williams spoke to the College Tribune on the issue and has said that ‘strike action is always a demonstration of the severity of a situation and, in this case, it is evident that this action is needed. When companies attempt to change the working conditions and pay of their employees without consultation with the workers and their unions, it is a threat to decent work for all of us. We simply cannot allow Bus Éireann to create a race to the bottom in working conditions and wages’. The strike is set to continue indefinitely according to the NBRU, which the union says is not what the workers want, but that it is a necessity at this point given the severity of the issue.
The President of the USI (which UCD are not affiliated to) said there are ‘thousands of students who rely on Bus Eireann to go to college, work and even travel home at the weekends. There are students who are parents who need to get to college and home to their families. There are students who rely on the already poor public transport routes around Ireland to travel’.
The USI President Annie Hoey continued to say ‘we urge management and our government to come to a resolution with workers, and firmly do not believe that workers should have their wages cut to plug the gap’.
Oisin McCanna Politics Editor