Manuel Cortes and Bus Eireann staff worker Anne-Marie Mannix, of the TSSA Picture: Michael Cowhey
BUSES across Limerick are still at a halt as the standoff between staff and management at Bus Eireann enters a sixth day.
Thousands of local commuters are facing more travel disruption this Wednesday, as the strike action marks its sixth day – with no talks scheduled to bring the dispute to an end.
High profile trade unionist Manuel Cortes – who has led strike action on the London Underground service – joined picket lines at Limerick Bus Station and Bus Eireann’s depot yesterday.
And he called on Transport Minister Shane Ross to “pull his finger out” and help bring an end to the strike action.
The industrial action from Siptu, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), and the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) is over cost cutting proposals at the stricken firm.
Among the plans which would affect Limerick is the cutting in frequency of the X12 Limerick to Dublin Expressway route. But bosses have also now threatened 300 redundancies nationally, claiming the firm is facing liquidation.
Mr Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA said: “My view is there is a political agenda behind everything that’s happening.
“It is very clear to me there are people within the government who want to see bus services in Ireland deregulated and privatised,” he added.
Normally, the state bus company runs seven regular bus services covering the city and its surrounds, as well as other irregular services covering rural areas of county Limerick.
On top of this, there are normally twice hourly services to Shannon Airport.
Mr Cortes apologised to local customers who have been left stranded.
“But I need to tell them that they will need to take some short-term pain for long term gain because if they [the government] get away with deregulation and privatisation, what will happen is ordinary people will be the losers, while fat cats will be laughing all the way to the bank,” Mr Cortes told the Limerick Leader.
Meanwhile, Limerick commuters could face further travel misery in the coming weeks, with SIPTU balloting its members at Irish Rail on taking industrial action in support of their colleagues at Bus Eireann. This action may also spread to Dublin Bus.
Dermot O’Leary, NBRU has indicated his union will also explore that option.
Irish Rail services were affected on the first day of the strike last Friday as some staff members refused to pass the picket at Colbert station. But they have since returned to normal.