Bus Éireann treatment of staff "totally unacceptable" - trade unions

The Unite trade union has called for the Bus Éireann survival plan - reportedly drawn up for the company by Grant Thornton - to be officially published

Bus Éireann treatment of staff "totally unacceptable" - trade unions

Bus Áras station in Dublin, 08-12-2016. Image: RollingNews

Updated 15:00

Trade unions have called on Bus Éireann management to communicate with workers and publish plans for dealing with the funding crisis at the company.

On Wednesday, the company confirmed it is facing insolvency within 18 months unless “decisive actions” are taken.

In a statement yesterday evening a Bus Éireann spokesperson said changes are urgently required at the company to address the network’s financial situation.

The statement confirmed that the company’s Expressway service - connecting many communities in rural Ireland - will remain a part of the business but admitted that there may be “alterations to operations of some routes.”

The company said the National Transport Authority (NTA) will ensure that local demands for public transport are met, and that “no rural communities will be left behind.”

However, trade unions have voiced their concern that plans to address the funding crisis – including potential cuts to workers terms and conditions – are being drip-fed to the media before any discussions with worker representatives have taken place.

Grant Thornton survival plan

Reports last week indicated the company had signed off on a Grant Thornton survival plan which would include  route cuts, job losses and lower pay for new recruits.

The company's strategy is also reported to include cuts to overtime and changes to the rules governing annual leave

This afternoon, the Unite trade union has called for the plan to be officially published - along with the terms of reference provided to the consultants.

Unite Regional Officer Willie Quigley said members have been "subjected to a barrage of leaks in the media" for the past week.

"These leaks have included details from a consultants’ report which has not been seen by unions, and suggestions that management is preparing to meet unions to discuss “implementation” of this unseen report - despite the fact that unions have yet to receive any invitation to talks," he said.

“It is time to stop leaking and start talking.  

"I am calling on the Minister to publish both the report and the terms of reference given to the consultants, so that all stakeholders - including the travelling public - are fully informed."

Mr Quigley said talks should then be convened to ensure the long-term stability of Bus Éireann as a public service.

"It should be noted that management has already accepted that pay increases must form part of any talks," he claimed.

Speaking to Newstalk this morning, SIPTU sector organiser Willie Noone said information is appearing in the media while staff are left in the dark:

“It appears that there is a strategy of putting out to the media a number of variations of plans that may be put to us,” he said.

“Maybe it is a bit of kite flying going on in relation to which of these plans is acceptable - but it is not working.

“All this is doing is really galvanising the workforce in opposition to any sort of plans that the company are coming out with at this stage because of the way they are treating their staff - it is totally unacceptable.”

Yesterday the general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, Dermot O’Leary said the company is attempting to condition staff into accepting cuts to their terms and conditions by drip-feeding information to the media.

He said staff will oppose any cuts “vigorously” and warned that the situation may lead to industrial action “of one form or another over the next number of weeks and months.”

New figures show the cash-strapped company is spending between €11m and €13m on staff overtime every year and reports in the Sunday Business Post this morning indicate the company is now planning to demand more money from the government for carrying pensioners.

According to the report, both unions and management regard the free travel scheme as a way for the government to circumvent state aid rules and pump more money into the company.

Multi-stakeholder talks

Mr O'Leary said the manner in which the news has surfaced in recent days has “all been designed to take the political heat” off the Minister for Transport, the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority (NTA).

He said the current crisis can only be resolved with talks between the “four main stakeholders” - Bus Éireann, the Department of Transport, The National Transport Authority (NTA) and the trade unions.

This afternoon Fianna Fáil spokesperson on transport said it is not acceptable for Transport Minister Shane Ross to continue to take a back seat in addressing the crisis.

"Minister Ross has been aware of the financial problems at the company for months but has failed to engage with bosses or unions," he said. "Now we’re facing a collision course between the management and unions over cost saving measures."

"Minister Ross must engage in this process - it is no longer acceptable for him to offload his responsibilities when there is a crisis on his doorstep."