Latest: School bus drivers to ballot on strike action

Update 4.15pm: Siptu members employed as Bus Éireann school bus drivers are to commence a ballot for industrial and strike action due to the threat to their jobs resulting from the wider crisis in the company.

"Today, the Siptu National School Bus Drivers Committee decided to commence the process of balloting its members for industrial and strike action in sympathy and support of their colleagues in Bus Éireann," said Siptu Sector Organiser, Willie Noone (pictured below).

"Although they are employees of Bus Éireann these workers have to date not been party to the ongoing dispute at the company.

"However, it is now known that their livelihoods will also be adversely affected in the circumstances that their employer is not able to continue trading.

"This leaves our members with no other option but to consider industrial action to protect their jobs and the services they provide."

The ballot for industrial action and strike by Siptu members employed as Bus Éireann school bus drivers is scheduled to be completed by 21 April.

Update 3pm: Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said comments from Minister Leo Varadkar this afternoon have laid bare the government’s privatisation agenda.

Minister Varadkar told RTÉ News that Bus Éireann is not essential and that most of what it does could be done by the private sector.

"These comments reveal the ideological reason why Transport Minister Shane Ross has steadfastly refused to intervene in the Bus Éireann dispute," said McDonald.

"The government’s privatisation agenda has been laid bare for all to see.

"What Minister Varadkar and indeed Minister Ross fail to take account of is the service Bus Éireann provides for our citizens along non profit making routes where private operators will not go. Are these people to be sacrificed for the government’s privatisation agenda?

"The reality is that Shane Ross and this government are happy to see the country brought to a standstill if it brings the privatisation of Bus Éireann a little bit closer.

"So the travelling public and those workers who are risking their livelihoods on the picket lines are simply being used in an ideological campaign to privatise our bus routes.

"That is an indictment on this government and they should hang their heads in shame."

Update 1.35pm: Bus Éireann have released a statement saying illegal activity will not help resolve the ongoing dispute.

The transport company also said it "regrets the ongoing disruption to the travelling public"

The statement said: "Escalation of this action in an illegal manner will not resolve the matter, and as a company, we can only engage on the basis of good faith.

Focusing on resolution of the dispute between the workers and the company, Bus Éireann said: "Trust must be restored in order for dialogue between both parties to resume.

"The company remain available for time-limited talks on efficiencies and changes to work practices.

"It is critical - for both the solvency of the business and to secure a viable future - that these changes are implemented.

"Management and the board want to see a resolution, but are responsible for ensuring that the business can survive."

Latest 12.15pm: Irish Rail and Dublin Bus services are resuming after being disrupted by Bus Eireann pickets this morning.

Almost all trains and buses were cancelled, with management saying it was completely unexpected.

Union bosses say they were also taken by surprise, and called on their members to return to work.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has called the morning's action an 'orchestrated ambush' of the travelling public and repeated again that he will not interfere in the dispute.

"What I really do regret deeply is the fact that what happened this morning has been an orchestrated ambush of the travelling public and I can't understand how this happened.

"I welcome the fact that the unions have asked them to go back to work and that the busses and trains are now resuming normal business, but we can't tolerate a situation like this going on or happening in the middle of an industrial relations dispute. "

Latest 12pm: Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar says people are rightly angry at what he said was an unlawful wildcat strike action.

He says the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or Labour Court is the only place where this will be resolved.

"I think perhaps some of the bus workers who are involved in this underestimated the resolve of the management of Bus Éireann and the resolve of the Minister for Transport in thinking that somehow a blank cheque would be written to resolve these issues.

"The only way they're going to be resolved is through negotiations and through the involvement of the WRC or the Labour Court if necessary."

Update 10.42am: Rail services and Dublin Bus services have resumed according to officials.

Iarnród Éireann released a statement saying delays and cancellations may continue until lunchtime due to trains being out of position and this may also result in some train sizes being different to planned.

Iarnród Éireann has apologised to the inconvenience and thanked customers for their patience.

Dublin Bus has also resumed service. The official Twitter account tweeted that passengers should expect delays as services resume.

Sipty has issued a statement saying the union did not organise and does not condone the unofficial action which disrupted rail and bus services this morning.

Siptu transport division organiser Greg Ennis said: “We regret the disruption which severely affected those planning to use Iarnrod Eireann and Dublin Bus services this morning. However, we understand the frustration and anger of the workers in Bus Eireann who are facing unilateral cuts to their wages and changes to their terms and conditions of employment by management at the company.

"We also appreciate the public support for the legitimate demands of Bus Eireann and other transport workers.

“This union does not condone unofficial action of this nature. Only yesterday, we contacted our members in Iarnrod Eireann and Dublin Bus with plans for a ballot by them for industrial and strike action in solidarity with their colleagues in Bus Eireann."

Update 10am: Bus Éireann drivers are starting to abandon the unofficial pickets at depots around the country.

Their demonstrations stopped hundreds of thousands of passengers using public transport this morning.

Colleagues in Irish Rail and Dublin Bus refused to cross the picket lines leading to nationwide cancellations.

Head of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O'Leary said "Common sense has prevailed."

"I understand why they decided to take action, it is hard to be out there for eight days and just being ignored by everyone involved in the dispute.

"But they shouldn't be doing it and I was unhappy it happened.

"The dispute is very important and it needs to be resolved."

AA Roadwatch have released a warning citing significant traffic delays across Dublin city due to the strike action.

Deputy Editor of AA Roadwatch Elaine O’Sullivan said: “As many people only found out about the disruption to Irish Rail and Dublin Bus services this morning, we saw a significant build up in traffic on all the main commuter routes into Dublin City, with normal delays also taking significantly longer to clear,

“In particular, this morning saw heavy delays on the M3 and M4 due to an increase in normal traffic levels and as we don’t yet know for how long these services will be affected we would advise all commuters to allow extra time for journeys where possible and plan ahead.”

The AA is also reminding motorists to exercise additional caution should the disruption to services continue into future.

“As we saw with the Dublin Bus strikes in 2016 any disruption to public transport leads to a spike in the number of cyclists and pedestrians on many main commuter routes.

Many of these may not be regular cyclists so motorists are reminded to take extra precautions and allow extra distance between themselves and vulnerable road users where possible."

Update 9am: Minister Shane Ross has appealed to the parties involved in the Bus Éireann dispute to get together and talk as soon as possible.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio One the Transport Minister also urged the pickets to desist.

Minister Ross said he was 'disgusted' by the 'unjustified and unfair' action taken by workers at Dublin Bus and Irish Rail.

Minister Ross said it is not something you expect in the normal run of industrial relations and reiterated that he would not 'intervene in an industrial relations dispute'

"It would be illegal for me to give state aid," Minister Ross said.

8.43am: The head of the National Bus and Railworkers Union has condemned this morning's action.

Dermot O'Leary is calling on members to go back to work: “I've issued notices, a number of notices over the last few weeks explaining to people in Dublin Bus and Irish Rail, that they have no dispute with their employer.

“I understand the frustration of Bus Eireann workers, it was always going to be a danger this could happen, but I can't condone it.”

Dermot O Leary

Update 8.32am: Minister for Transport Shane Ross has released a statement this morning stating his concerns for passengers affected by the 'unofficial and unjustified protest' at transport depots across the country.

Minister Ross said: "This is not part of the fair conduct of strikes."

Minister Ross said the public were angered by the 'unexpected disruption' and he sympathised with their 'unforeseen predicament.'

"I am actively monitoring developments and will revert to the public as soon as the situation becomes clearer.

"Some public transport services are operating, particularly Luas and private bus operators and I would advise commuters to check the journey planner on TransportforIreland.ie and associated websites."

Update 7.15am: Dublin Bus say they will also be affected by picketing today.

Irish Rail has said picketing means no services can be guaranteed on Dublin Commuter trains.

All DARTs are cancelled except the 7am Malahide to Bray service.

There are also cancellations on many Intercity rail routes and Dublin Bus routes around the capital.

Irish Rail has said anyone who has bought a rail ticket and is unable to travel will be refunded if they so wish.

Dublin Bus has told users to check their website and Twitter account for the most up-to-date information on the situation.

Earlier: Irish Rail is warning there is going to be extensive disruption to its services today as a result of the Bus Éireann dispute.

Picketing by its staff means it cannot guarantee any services across DART and Dublin Commuter trains.

There are also cancellations expected on Intercity routes.

Irish Rail has promised to update their Twitter account with the latest information on their services.

Rail workers are demonstrating solidarity with their Bus Éireann colleagues whose all-out strike over cuts has entered its eight day.

Yesterday Transport Minister Shane Ross was dubbed "the invisible minister" by Sinn Féin, over his handling of the dispute.


 

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