Bus Éireann issues fresh negotiations appeal

The National Bus and Rail Union has warned that the company's cost-cutting survival plan will lead to industrial action

Bus Éireann issues fresh negotiations appeal

Bus Eireann acting CEO, Ray Hernan arriving at Leinster House today, 25-01-2017. Image : Sam Boal / RollingNews

The acting chief executive at Bus Éireann has issued a plea to staff unions to engage in cost-cutting talks with the company “as a matter of urgency.”

Ray Hernan has been appearing before the Oireachtas Transport Committee this afternoon to outline the financial difficulties facing the company.

He said he is not “scaremongering” when he says the entire company could go out of business - with the loss of 2,600 jobs - if “drastic and decisive” action is not taken.

In a letter to staff last week, the company outlined a highly controversial survival plan involving redundancies, cuts in premium payments and out-sourcing.

Mr Hernan insisted that claims from trade unions that the cuts-backs could amount to losses of 30% for workers were not based on any facts.

Call for unions to re-enter talks

He said he was “disappointed” that unions declined an invitation to meet with management yesterday and urged staff representatives to engage with the company “as a matter of urgency.”

“I am looking for the unions to take a responsible stance in terms of leadership and representation of their staff to come to the table again urgently to resolve and come up with a plan that we can agree on to implement,” he said.

“I cannot implement this plan without the support of the staff and the unions.”

He again insisted that the company was not “bluntly targeting our staff to fix the financial problems that exist within our organisation.”

He pledged to safeguard basic pay and protect the maximum number of viable jobs – however he warned that all staffing structures are under review.

“I don’t have an issue with the basic pay levels that exist within our organisation,” he said.

“What we are challenged with and what causes the higher cost on a payroll perspective for us are the premium payments that we pay.

“That is overtime rates, shift allowances, rota allowances, lunch expenses - there is a long significant amount of them.”

The Minister for Transport

This Evening, the Minister for Transport again refused to get involved in the dispute – despite claims from staff unions that as a stakeholder in the company the government has a “responsibility to meet the costs required to keep the company solvent.”

Shane Ross said he is concerned for staff and customers of the company - but ruled out getting involved in the negotiations.

“My position is exactly the same as it has always been - that I will not get involved in the industrial relations dispute at Bus Éireann,” he said.

“That is absolutely full-stop, bottom line.”

Losses worse than feared

Earlier Mr Hernan warned that is not just the commercial Expressway service that is a problem at the company - and warned that cost efficiencies must be found across the business.

He told the assembled politicians that the company’s finances are worse than feared - with losses for 2016 now expected to reach up to €9m.

Yesterday the Labour Court refused to intervene in the dispute and unions again insisted that no talks can commence until the proposed survival plan is withdrawn.

The National Bus and Rail Union general Secretary, Dermot O’Leary said if the company moves forward with plan, “there will be a reaction and that reaction will come in the form of industrial action.”

“As long as there is a condition which involves people’s wages being cut in front of us before we go to any talks then those talks cannot take place,” he said.

Unions are due to meet tomorrow to decide their next move.