19 August 2004 Edition
Dublin Bus clashes with new union
BY JOANNE CORCORAN
A bitter battle is raging between Dublin Bus and the recently established Independent Workers' Union (IWU) over the transport company's suspension of three members of the union four weeks ago. The men, who cannot be named at this time for legal reasons, were suspended without pay for distributing information about the IWU to co-workers. The company has claimed that the men were handing out literature for a union not recognised by Dublin Bus and adds that that when asked to desist and leave the premises, they refused.
The suspension has caused an outcry from fellow workers and the IWU. Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has said it "beggars belief".
When contacted by An Phoblacht last week, Dublin Bus spokesperson Gráinne Mackin said: "Dublin Bus only has relations with SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU).
"The men have been invited to come in to meet with their employers, and they are entitled to bring a representative, but they can only bring somebody from SIPTU, the NBRU or a co-worker. They cannot bring in somebody who is there in the capacity of an IWU representative.
"We don't recognise that union," she said. "That's our side, I'm sure the men will have their own side."
Current Irish legislation does not compel employers to recognise trade unions, but leaves it at their discretion. This has led to 'closed shops' in many companies, where employers can refuse to deal with unrecognised unions.
But it is recent legislation, the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, that the IWU believes the company has contravened.
Section 8 of the Act states that "no employee can be victimised for being or not being a member of a trade union, or for engaging or not engaging in any activities on behalf of a trade union".
Speaking to An Phoblacht on Tuesday, Assistant General Secretary of the IWU, Ray O'Reilly, said the men were peacefully distributing information about their union, on request, in their own time and workplace, and are being discriminated against for joining a union of their choice. He also said that when asked to leave the premises by Dublin Bus, the men complied.
"Suspension without pay is illegal and is a vicious attack, not alone on the worker, but on their family and dependants," O'Reilly said.
"And now other drivers in various depots of Dublin Bus are also facing suspension and possible dismissal, even some who are on sick leave, for being members of the IWU, which is a fully licensed and legal trade union."
The men have sought legal advice and are currently involved in meetings with Dublin Bus.
Dublin TD Seán Crowe has expressed his concern about the developments between the company and the union.
"I have been in contact with the management at CIE and told them of my concern for the men, and they have told me that this is an internal matter," Crowe said. "That may be, but I also told them that I thought the way they were handling the situation could only lead to escalation of the dispute.
"Ultimately, I would be afraid that this sort of action will lead to cuts in service from Dublin Bus and that's not going to help anybody.
"They seem to be upping the ante on the workers all the time and are really trying to force their hand. The whole situation beggars belief."
An Phoblacht contacted the press spokesperson of the NBRU, Liam Tobin, last week, to ask the union what its position on the matter was, but we were told that it had nothing to say about the matter. SIPTU did not return our calls.