SIPTU has stated that Minister for Employment and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, is wrong to suggest in a post published on her Facebook page, yesterday (Thursday, 12th October), that “an unofficial labour dispute is in progress” involving Bus Éireann services in the east of the country. SIPTU TEAC Division Organiser, Greg Ennis, said: “The minister is clearly ill-advised to suggest that there is an ‘unofficial labour dispute’ in progress involving Bus Éireann services in the eastern corridor, as this is clearly not the case. SIPTU, alongside its sister trade unions in Bus Éireann, has been on the record prior to and since the dispute earlier this year, advising that the rosters and bus schedules proposed by Bus Éireann management were unworkable and not fit for purpose. “In some cases, these schedules were placing drivers and the travelling public at risk due to the potential for drivers to work through the night on shifts approaching 13 hours’ duration. The issue of giving short breaks to drivers in remote locations, which does not allow drivers the chance to either avail of a toilet break, or indeed take a rest period in line with legal requirements, had also been highlighted. Management clearly knew that drivers would have to abide by driving regulations, and prior to imposing these new schedules, they were certainly aware of absenteeism levels”. He added: “The management of Bus Éireann needs to account for its own incompetence and lack of foresight on these matters, and government ministers including Regina Doherty need to account for the cut in funding to Bus Éireann and indeed the wider CIE Group whose subvention was cut by 41% between 2009 and 2015. In defiance of a Dáil motion that was passed on 2nd February, the Government supported attempts by the management of Bus Éireann to unilaterally cut workers’ pay by 25%, to discontinue routes and to enforce compulsory redundancies. Due to SIPTU members in Bus Éireann taking three weeks of strike action earlier this year, these unprecedented and draconian measures were not allowed to materialise. “Blaming workers for the funding choices taken by this government is despicable, and alleging that unofficial bus disruption is being orchestrated by Bus Éireann drivers, many of whom live in Co Meath and who have been loyal to their employer and dedicated to the travelling public for many years, is reprehensible and unbecoming of a cabinet minister”.