The ongoing dispute between Bus Éireann and its staff which has disrupted travel in Athlone and around the country entered its sixth day on Wednesday this week, with no sign of any resolution at the time of writing.
The situation deteriorated late last week when the company issued a statement saying it was to push ahead with cost-saving measures without the agreement of workers.
Workers’ unions responded by announcing their intention to strike on Friday, refusing to agree to proposed changes to pay and conditions.
The crisis deepened further this week when it emerged that workers belonging to Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann could strike in a show of support for their Bus Éireann counterparts. Both of these companies are to be balloted next week on taking industrial action.
Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, is coming under increasing pressure to establish a forum for all parties of the dispute to talk. Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee yesterday (Wednesday ), Minister Ross said he wanted to secure the future of Bus Éireann but that his powers are limited.
“I want to see a successful and thriving Bus Éireann - a Bus Éireann that continues to be at the heart of public transport provision in rural Ireland and regional cities,” he told the committee.
“There are those on the Committee who believe that a Ministerial magic wand can resolve an industrial relations dispute. I’ve willingly intervened in those areas that are appropriate for me to intervene in... But I will not be dictating to management and unions about their internal issues. I will not be involved in discussions about how the company organises itself. These are areas for agreement between management and unions,” he concluded.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport, Robert Troy, says school transport services could be threatened as a result of the dispute.
“Alarmingly, I have been contacted by a number of private operators under the School Transport Scheme who have highlighted that they have received correspondence from Bus Éireann to say that payments due on Friday will not be processed,” he said. “These operators have warned that they are considering withdrawing from the School Transport Scheme from next Monday.”