NBRU to move against potential privatisation of bus routes

Union to ballot members in Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Irish Rail for strike action

The prospect of industrial action in the State-run transport sector has increased following the collapse of talks over the potential privatisation of some routes currently operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) is to ballot members in Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann – which form part of the broader CIÉ group – next week for industrial action up to and including an all-out strike if the National Transport Authority (NTA) seeks tenders for the operation of 10 per cent routes currently run by the State companies.

The NBRU is also to initiate High Court proceedings aimed at blocking the reform plans.

Siptu said it would now go back to talk to its committees representing staff in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann before deciding what action to take.


However Siptu utilities division organiser Owen Reidy said the row could escalate and involve industrial action.

Talks had been under way at the Labour Relations Commission for the last several months between Siptu, the NBRU, the NTA and the Department of Transport on the plans to put the routes to tender.

However, the unions yesterday suspended their involvement in the process.

A spokeswoman for the NTA said it was disappointed at the development but was “not pausing the tendering process”.

Deterioration in conditions

Unions fear the tendering proposals could lead to the privatisation of routes which until now have been run by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann and result in a deterioration of their members’ terms and conditions if they have to move to private operators.

Under the current plans, orbital routes in Dublin rather than city-centre services, such as those between Blackrock and Rialto, and Chapelizod and Tallaght, would be put out to tender.

Bus Éireann routes earmarked for tender include commuter services from Dublin to Tullamore, Portlaoise and Kildare, as well as a number of routes in Waterford city.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be permitted to tender to continue to operate the routes.

Plans backed by Minister

The plans to put out to tender a number of routes traditionally operated by the State transport companies have been consistently backed by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said: “We have from day one been consistent in our approach to this policy, in that we informed both the current and previous minister that the privatisation of publicly owned bus services was not alone a flawed policy but was also based on a dubious interpretation of the relevant legislation and would inevitably result in conflict.

“Despite many months of discussion at the Labour Relations Commission, the Government, in the guise of the National Transport Authority, and the Department [of Transport] have failed to give assurances to staff as to the future of their industry along with their ability to support their families.”

Mr O’Leary said the challenge for the NTA was to acknowledge that legislation may not support the methodology it wished to apply in this case. He said it would have to come to the table and negotiate a mechanism that would address the union members’ concerns and “facilitate an open and transparent debate around public transport provision which should be inclusive of all stakeholders”.

“If the National Transport Authority does not, we will have no option but to use all the resources at our disposal including initiating High Court proceedings,” he said.

The NBRU ballot on industrial action will begin next Monday.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent