13 May 2013

Ireland: government fears indefinite bus strike will inspire others

About 1,000 workers at Bus Eireann began an indefinite strike against yesterday. The action is by members of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) who are resisting attacks on their pay and conditions. The operator said that 95% of its services were hit, as staff from other unions refused to cross the picket lines.

Talks with other unions
The Government is desperate to resolve the impasse quickly amid concern that an ongoing strike among the bus workers could encourage others onto the pickets. The ruling coalition is especially sensitive because industrial relations troubleshooter Kieran Mulvey is currently locked in talks with public sector unions in order to strike a deal on making €300m in savings. But if those talks break down without a deal, then the Government has insisted it will legislate for pay cuts across the board. Frontline workers including nurses and gardai have warned of industrial action if this takes place.

'A showcase dispute'
A senior government source admitted it was pressing hard to get the Bus Eireann dispute resolved – given the potential for it to be followed by industrial action by other public sector workers. "No one wants the bus strike to take off in terms of a showcase dispute," he said. None of the 650 drivers in the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union took part in the strike, as the union is awaiting the outcome of a ballot on May 16. But they are refusing to cross picket lines.

Breach of contract

The Bus Eireann strike action centres on the implementation of a €5m cost-cutting plan. The strike is affecting 300 rural and intercity bus routes nationwide. Michael Faherty, NBRU general secretary, claimed the bus firm had forced the strike action by implementing a cost-cutting plan which he described as a breach of employment contract.
Bus Eireann's plan includes a 20% cut to a range of allowance and expense payments, a reduction of overtime rates, longer working hours and a cut in shift payments.

No comments: