The Taoiseach Enda Kenny says the Transport Minster Shane Ross is not in "hiding" over the issue
The Five unions representing workers at Bus Éireann are calling on the Minister for Transport to help facilitate a multi-stakeholder forum on the crisis at the company.
Following a meeting this morning, the unions have agreed to hold off on calling imminent industrial action in order to consider how best to respond to cost-cutting plans.
The unions said they do not intend to shut down the travel network or unnecessarily inconvenience passengers.
Yesterday, the acting chief executive of Bus Éireann, Ray Hernan told the Oireachtas transport committee that without “drastic action” the entire company will go out of business.
A controversial survival plan drawn up for the company would see a range of cuts, outsourcing and potential redundancies imposed on workers if put into action.
Union chiefs have insisted the cuts could amount to losses of up 30% for staff and have warned that any attempt to unilaterally impose them will be met by industrial action.
Two of the main unions involved in the dispute - SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) - already have a mandate from members to take industrial action.
In a joint statement following this morning’s meeting, the unions called on Transport Minister Shane Ross to “provide leadership and do the right thing by both commuters and staff” and facilitate a forum - without preconditions - to resolve the dispute.
The forum would include Bus Éireann management, staff unions, the National Transport Authority and representative from the Department of Transport.
The National Bus and Rail Union general secretary, Dermot O’Leary said Minister Ross wouldn’t necessarily have to attend the forum himself:
“I would like to do that obviously,” he said. “but all he has to do is facilitate [the forum].”
“What that means is quite simply, he has civil servants - or as he calls them mandarins - at the department that are well able to sit down - if they want to come out of the shadows and speak with us.”
This afternoon the Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Minster Ross is not in "hiding" over the issue.
“He has been out answering questions in the Dáil on this and there is no more public forum than that,” he said.
"Clearly there is an issue here. I do hope that the engagement with the Labour Court will bring about a situation where they can have discussion between unions and management because that is where this has got to be settled."
The unions believe their proposed forum could provide a platform to ensure a long term Public Transport Plan is put in place to stave off future industrial action disputes.
"If, as has been suggested, Bus Éireann moves to unilaterally impose cuts - already described by the Minister himself as severe - than we will be left with no option but to respond accordingly,” reads the statement.
The unions will be providing “extensive briefings” to staff at Iarnrod Éireann and Dublin Bus on the ongoing situation at Bus Éireann.
Mr O’Leary has previously suggested that staff at other transport companies could join the dispute in solidarity with Bus Éireann workers.