THE Labour Court was scheduled to sit at 3pm today in an effort to resolve the ongoing dispute between unions and management at Bus Éireann.
Work stoppages continue today following a breakdown in talks overnight, bringing the transport strike into its 19th day.
Parties have failed to reach an agreement on redundancy packages and an overhaul of working conditions, though the NBRU have stated their willingness to support measures which could see Bus Éireann save €18m.
Speaking to the Evening Echo this morning, NBRU General President John Moloney admitted that he had not expected the strike to continue this long.
“Our objective was to stop the company introducing unagreed measures,” he said.
“We were up in the WRC with the intention to solving this.
“We were of the view that a reduction in headcount is something that we could deliver on but in that case there had to be some kind of financial package.
“The company are not offering a reasonable rate on that.” Mr Moloney said that the union could not comment on whether or not the strike will continue into Easter before the outcome of today's court session.
“We thought that this strike could be over a long time ago.
“The fact that it is not affecting the capital seems to be why it is dragging on.
“Our drivers see that their function is just that, to bring kids to school, to bring people to hospital.
“All we want to do is to deliver transport.
“We know that people are being affected, that was not our objective.” In a statement released this morning, Bus Éireann stated that “while progress was made and agreement was reached to eliminate many work practice inefficiencies, an offer made by the company that would help to deliver financial viability was rejected by the Trade Unions representing the driver grade.” “We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of the ongoing industrial action.” Meanwhile, business owners are calling for ministerial action to be taken, as towns and cities suffer a continued drop in trade.
Cork Business Association president Pat O'Connell has accused Bus Éireann staff and management of “holding the public to ransom”, and appealed for a swift resolution.
“The situation is absolutely and utterly frustrating,” he said.
“I am absolutely frustrated with this company, whether it be the management or the staff.
“They need to get their internal affairs in order.
“They are holding the public to ransom.” Mr O'Connell estimates that trade in the English Market is down between 10 and 20% since the strike began, while staff continue to face challenges traveling to and from work.
“The city is hurting,” he said.
“The CBA has written to Shane Ross and appealed for something to be done. We have also reached out to the workers.
“We're doing our best to put pressure on the power that be to get their act together.
“The country is just coming out of the worst economic crash we have ever seen.
“This is the last thing that is needed."