Group in bid to break deadlock at Dublin Bus

Wednesday 11 September 2013 23.26
A dispute over cost-cutting proposals led to a three-day strike at Dublin Bus last month
A dispute over cost-cutting proposals led to a three-day strike at Dublin Bus last month

The Government has confirmed that is establishing a group to examine how the Dublin Bus dispute can be resolved.

The Government has accepted a joint proposal from ICTU and IBEC to establish a group tasked with carrying out an "urgent investigation" of how the Labour Court recommendation on cost cutting measures at the company can be progressed.

A statement from the Department of Transport notes that Dublin Bus drivers have repeatedly rejected proposals, including a Labour Court recommendation and clarification, aimed at achieving financial stability at the company.

All other grades at Dublin Bus have accepted the cost reduction measures.

According to the statement, the government ICTU and IBEC note that the Labour Court stated that its recommendations were based on the conclusion that the financial evidence, which was independently examined and verified by consultants nominated by the Unions, showed that the savings were "plainly and unambiguously necessary in order to protect employment".

The statement continues that they are conscious that the continued deferral of the implementation of cost reduction measures places employment in the company at increased risk.

They believe a final effort should be made to resolve the matter without further strike action, which they warn would be very disruptive for commuters and could have very serious consequences for the company, its employees and for the economy.

The group has already had its first meeting and has been asked to carry out its work in the "shortest feasible timescale".

Its terms of reference include identifying the issues in the proposals which have contributed to their rejection by the driver grade, identifying how those issues can be resolved, and making recommendations including a timescale for implementation.

The group is making immediate arrangements to engage external expertise to carry out a detailed investigation on its behalf - including discussions with management, unions and drivers.

The Government is represented in the group by the Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Tom O'Mahony, who is chairing the Group, and the Secretary General of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr John Murphy.

ICTU is represented by its General Secretary, Mr David Begg and IBEC is represented by its Chief Executive, Danny McCoy.

Some bus services may be put out to tender

The National Transport Authority has announced a proposal to put 10% of Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus services out to tender to the private sector in 2016.

The NTA said this would encourage good competition and provide a satisfactory sized operation against which to benchmark existing operators.

Under the proposals, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann would retain their existing public service contract until 2016.

Both companies would be entitled to bid for the routes put out to tender.

The NTA said the priorities would be a high-quality of service and accessibility, with value for money, while ensuring that public transport integration is maintained.

Interested parties can send in submissions until 11 October.

The Dublin Bus routes to be opened to tender include orbital and some local routes around Dublin, including the 17 from Rialto to Blackrock, the 33B from Swords to Portrane and the 111 from Dún Laoghaire to Loughlinstown.

Bus Éireann could lose all city services in Waterford, some city services in Cork, some rural routes in the southeast and certain Dublin commuter services.

NTA Chief Executive Officer Gerry Murphy said the proposals were carefully balanced to introduce competition into the bus market in a structured manner.

He said Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann would be able to plan for tendering and possible downsizing if they were unsuccessful.

The National Bus and Rail Union said the announcement of the NTA proposals for privatising 10% of routes while the Dublin Bus dispute was continuing was unhelpful and could not have come at a worse time.