24 March 2017

Labour Party Spokesperson on Transport, Brendan Ryan TD, has called for an independent third party to mediate between unions and management in the Bus Éireann dispute.

Deputy Ryan said:

“With staff in Bus Éireann now on an all-out strike, it’s time for a third party, independent mediator to intervene to ensure the company’s future is secured for both workers and the general public who rely on it’s services.

“This slow moving crisis has been developing for months while the Government and Minister Ross have sat on their hands.

“A month ago I called for a stakeholder forum for all those in the public transport industry in a bid to head off future disputes. The Minister needs to take action now.

“For five years in the worst of times, Labour ensured industrial peace was maintained, and a floor set on terms and conditions. We must ensure that the workers in Bus Éireann are employed under fair terms and conditions, and that a race to the bottom is avoided.

“Management at Bus Éireann have allowed the crisis in the company to get completely out of hand, and must take responsibility for the cack-handed way they have handled it in recent months.

“A financial crisis of this kind does not simply happen overnight, and management, by pursing confrontation instead of dialogue, have made it worse.

“While we are in no doubt that solutions can be looked at in the context of efficiencies, there are several key actions that the Government can take to resolve the crisis in Bus Éireann.

“Solutions can be found, but it cannot happen by slashing the pay and conditions of drivers and staff in Bus Éireann. The Labour Party has proposed the following four actions:

· Labour has published a Bill that would attach conditions to the licenses of private bus operators to ensure a more level playing field with Bus Éireann. It would enable a Sectoral Employment Order to be introduced to set a floor on terms and conditions for staff across the bus industry or else require a bus company to engage in collective bargaining with their staff.

· Labour has called on the Government and Minister for Transport to commit to raise our subvention levels for public transport to European norms. We provided for this in our Alternative Budget.

· Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar provided no increase in funding for the free travel scheme in the last Budget. Labour provided an extra €3 million in 2016. Numbers are increasing and funding has stayed static. This week we called for savings in the Department of Social Protection from lower unemployment figures to be committed to the Free Travel Scheme.

· We have called for a concerted effort to avert planned industrial action. The Taoiseach and Minister for Transport have ignored those calls. This is the third major transport-related dispute in less than a year. We have called for the Minister for Transport Shane Ross to set up a stakeholder forum to deal with the key issues giving rise to industrial unrest in the Public Transport Industry.

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