Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar meets Dublin Bus management over cuts

Tuesday 10 September 2013 19.20
Dublin Bus drivers staged a three-day strike at the start of August
Dublin Bus drivers staged a three-day strike at the start of August

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has met Dublin Bus management to discuss the row over cost-cutting proposals which triggered a three-day strike last month.

A third-party intervention in the Dublin Bus dispute is expected to be discussed at Cabinet tomorrow.

A Department of Transport spokesperson said there had been a "frank, honest and pragmatic" exchange of views.

He said there would probably be a meeting with unions in the near future but no time has yet been arranged.

Dublin Bus confirmed that Chief Executive Paddy Doherty had met ministers today to discuss issues surrounding the dispute, but would be making no further comment for the moment.

Dublin Bus drivers belonging to SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union have rejected proposals aimed at securing savings of €11.7m a year - though all other grades at the company have accepted them.

The unions have warned that if the company implements the disputed changes without agreement, it will trigger a resumption of their strike action.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar warned that if Dublin Bus workers go on strike again over cost cutting measures, it could reach a point where the company could no longer function - as it would receive neither fares not public subvention funding.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio he said there will be one final "last ditch intervention" to try to stave off further industrial action.

Mr Varadkar said that this time last year, CIE had been on the verge of going bust, when the Government decided to borrow and beg money from everywhere to inject €36m into the company.

He said that this year he did not have that option.

He said that €36m had been put into CIE on the basis that it would be restructured and that cost savings would be delivered.

He said those savings had not been delivered - and this year, he did not have the option of injecting further emergency funding.

He said there was going to be one more last ditch intervention over the next couple of weeks to try to solve the industrial relations issues at Dublin Bus.

Asked whether Dublin Bus could go bust, he said he did not want to be accused of threatening people.

However, he said that his department had to prepare for every possibility.

He noted that Dublin Bus was not a normal part of the public serivce - and that staff had not been affected by the pension levy or by cuts under the Croke Park or Haddington Road deals.

He also said that they did not have the protections that public servants have.

He said that Dublin Bus had been in breach of its contract to deliver public transport when it went on strike for three days, and had been penalised for that.

He said if a strike were to resume, the company would again be in breach of contract and realistically there would come a point where it could no longer operate as it would simply run out of money - as no fares or subvention would be coming in.

Asked whether if Dublin Bus were to cease to exist as a company, he would consider appointing a receiver to run the compnay as he saw fit, Mr Varadkar said his department was working on all those sorts of options and scenarios at present - but added that he hoped they would not get into that.