Strikes loom as Bus Éireann talks collapse

Unions have warned they will immediately engage in strike action if the company moves forward with plans to introduce €12m cuts to workers earnings

Strikes loom as Bus Éireann talks collapse

Bus Eireann buses pictured in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Unions have accused Bus Éireann of abusing state industrial relations institutions after talks aimed at avoiding an all-out strike at the company collapsed.

This afternoon's talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) were aimed at finding a resolution to the financial crisis facing the company as it seeks cost reductions of €30m.

An all-out strike at the company was originally scheduled to begin last Monday but was suspended to allow the talks to take place.

Yesterday, the company released a discussion document in which it said its financial situation is worsening with losses for 2016 now estimated at €9.4m.

Unions have put their members on notice that they will immediately engage in strike action if the company moves forward with plans to introduce €12m cuts to workers earnings.

Bus Éireann management has insisted the company will be insolvent by May unless the cuts are introduced.

Industrial action

In a statement this afternoon, SIPTU said its members were once again ready to take strike action over the “failure of management to present a competent and credible plan” during the talks.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Willie Noone said members will have no other option but to take action if the company attempts to force through the cuts.

“What we do know is that whenever they go to implement their changes, that will be the day the strikes start,” he said.

“We would hope that common sense would prevail and that the Minister for Transport would now actually sit up and grasp the seriousness of what is occurring and intervene.

“We are not saying that he has to intervene in the industrial relations arena but intervene and put in a process which would ensure that a strike does not have to occur.”

He said the cost saving plan put forward by management would drive employment conditions at the company “into the ground” and called for all stakeholders in the dispute to join the discussions and help “avert the destruction of our public transport service.”

Financial crisis

Following the breakdown of the talks this evening Bus Éireann management said it is “clear at this stage is that the unions have no intention of reaching an agreement which will address the financial crisis” at the company.

“The company has attempted to negotiate with the unions and has put every conceivable issue on the table without pre-conditions in an effort to address the financial crisis and ensure longer term competitiveness,” the company said in a statement.

“The union’s response to date has been to refuse to negotiate any change to terms and conditions, insist on a pay rise and seek compensation for staff who may have had a reduction in overtime earnings over the last few weeks.”

It said drivers are on average paid for 9.4 hours of work each day when they only drive for five and a half hours on scheduled services.

The company insisted that without immediate reductions in costs - including payroll savings of €12m - and improved efficiency, Bus Éireann will be insolvent by May.

“We will now seriously consider our position and advise our staff in due course of the necessary steps which must be taken to avoid insolvency,” said the statement.

Major disruption of transport network

The National Bus and Rail Union general secretary Dermot O'Leary said the company has "abused the industrial relations institutions of the state on a number of occasions over the last number of weeks" and called on the Minister for Transport to involve himself in the dispute.

"We remain steadfastly opposed to Managements real agenda of driving a taxpayer’s owned company to the dingy shark infested waters of low wage operators," he said.

"Our members have today been put on notice that the NBRU will immediately engage in all out strike should the company move to impose unilateral cuts to contractual terms and conditions.

"The responsibility for major disruption across the transport network resides with the absentee Minister [for Transport] and his Department."