Thousands of commuters across Ireland, including Trinity students, will be affected from today onwards by an indefinite strike by Bus Éireann staff. The strike, which was announced yesterday, will not disrupt school transport services for primary and secondary school students.
In 2016, Bus Éireann lost in excess of €9 million. If measures to curb losses are not implemented, the company will be insolvent by May of this year.
So far there has been no agreement between management and staff to resolve the problems within the transport company. Two rounds of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) failed, and on Wednesday, staff were told that the company would begin unilaterally implementing cost-saving measures immediately. The measures would see Bus Éireann staff suffer loss of earnings of up to €10,000 each.
Despite the suggestion that the dispute could be resolved by a change in government policy, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, has refused to become involved.
Speaking to Trinity News, 3rd Year English Studies student, Sadbh Kellett describes how the strike will affect her commute: “I use Bus Eireann almost every day to get in and out of college as it’s one of two public transport options I have but [the alternative to Bus Éireann is] based in the next town over and only occasionally pass through our town so I tend not to be able to get them. I’m going to have to rely on the private company for the foreseeable future so at least I have an alternative where many others don’t.”
Kellett continued: “Whilst I respect the workers’ right to strike and wish them the best of luck, I do think they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and I’ve definitely seen the strain on the services in my own hometown. It’s not surprising when buses don’t turn up, buses regularly breakdown, prices are ridiculous, and the drivers can often seem frustrated as a result. It’s hard to see what the outcome of this will be, which is a pity because public transport is so important for people themselves, the environment and for connecting Ireland, making it accessible.”
Since Christmas, two strikes have been announced only to be called at the last minute when the new management of Bus Éireann and trade unions have returned to the negotiating table. The Acting Chief Executive of Bus Éireann, Ray Hernan, has indicated that there is no basis for the talks to reconvene this time as there is no prospect of the situation changing. Meanwhile, SIPTU has blamed unfairness and inequity on the part of management for the strike.