A member of the public appears to offer moral support to striking bus drivers PICTURE: MICHAEL COWHEY
HOPES for an end to the nationwide strike by Bus Eireann workers were dashed late on Monday night when talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) broke down.
After 16 days of negotiations at the WRC talks broke down without agreement. The unions have now referred a number of issues to the Labour Court and the company has agreed to attend. The company has sought an early hearing given what it says is "the urgency of the financial situation".
In a statement this Tuesday Bus Eireann management said, "While progress was made and agreement was reached to eliminate many work practise inefficiencies, an offer made by the company that would help to deliver financial viability was rejected by the Trade Unions representing the driver grade."
Negotiations had restarted on Monday morning at the WRC, with reports indicating an agreement was edging ever closer.
Workers across various areas of the company withdrew their labour on March 24 in an escalation of the row over a cost-cutting measures.
Local commuters have been left to pay the price as there have been no city or county services since. 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 – which at present remains inaccessible by public transport.
Private services have continued to operate as normal between Limerick, the university, Dublin, Galway and Cork, while Irish Rail services locally have been largely unaffected.
According to reports in national media, the main sticking points in the talks revolve around clarity as to what impact complex cost-cutting measures would have on Bus Éireann drivers.
Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, said stakeholders not at the table still have a big role to play in the talks.
Cllr Frankie Daly, who chairs Limerick City and County Council’s transport committee said on Monday he was only “50% hopeful” buses will be back on city streets in the coming days.
“I’d hope it would be resolved over the next 24 hours at union level in Dublin. But I’m not that hopeful. But if buses are back on the streets, it would be fantastic for elderly people going to hospital, and people going to and from work, people shopping. We’re talking about a vital public service, particularly in the metropolitan area,” he said.
“It’s of paramount importance this dispute is resolved.”