Bus Éireann dispute moves to Labour Court

Talks have broken down after 16 days

Bus Éireann dispute moves to Labour Court

Bus Eireann acting CEO Ray Hernan (right) leading his management team into the WRC talks in Lansdowne House in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Parties involved in the Bus Éireann dispute are meeting at the Labour Court this afternoon.

It comes after talks with unions at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) broke down without agreement earlier following 16 days of negotiations.

The company says it sought an early Labour Court hearing "given the urgency of the financial situation".

The dispute centres around a proposed survival plan at the company, which involves significant cuts to workers pay and conditions.

The company says it lost €9.4m in 2016, with its losses 'accelerating' in past few months.

While it says its overtime bill is currently costing some €13m. The bus strike has now entered its 19th day.

"While progress was made and agreement was reached to eliminate many work practice inefficiencies, an offer made by the company that would help to deliver financial viability was rejected by the trade unions representing the driver grade", the company says.

Bus Éireann has apologised to customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of the ongoing industrial action.

"The demise of Bus Éireann"

While NBRU General-Secretary Dermot O'Leary said: "Despite the best efforts of the WRC, it is unfortunate that we have been unable to reach a resolution to the issues in dispute at Bus Éireann.

"The trade unions, as part of this process, were prepared to contribute upwards of €18m towards the savings required to resolve the financial crisis.

"It would appear to us that other agencies that were not party to the discussions at the WRC have been applying undue influence on the proceedings, restricting the ability of Bus Éireann to actually reach agreement.

"The issues between the parties will now be referred to the Labour Court for consideration, it would seem that there are forces at play here which would prefer to see the demise of Bus Éireann, rather than concentrate on securing its future, for the benefit of staff and commuters alike".

"Disappointing"

SIPTU sector organiser, Willie Noone, said: "Despite the very best efforts of WRC Conciliation Officers, it has proved beyond their professional expertise to find a set of proposals which could bring a conclusion to this dispute. Some outstanding issues which are central to getting a comprehensive agreement have now been referred to the Labour Court for non-binding arbitration.

"It is disappointing that after five days of intense negotiations and following the identification of €18 million in savings, management did not deem that sufficient to end the impasse. It appears that management is controlled by consultants and others outside the process who are content to see 2,600 good jobs lost in order to advance the privatisation of public transport."

He added: "It is hoped that the Labour Court will find a formula which could form the basis for resolving this dispute and bring an end to the suffering of Bus Éireann workers and the travelling public, which has been deliberately exacerbated by the inaction of Minister for Transport Shane Ross."

Speaking last month, the chief commercial officer at Bus Éireann refused to rule out appointing a receiver to the semi-state company if strike action continued.

Stephen Kent told Newstalk Breakfast: "The directors...have a duty to make sure the best interests of the company is served - and they will have to take whatever necessary measures are required to ensure that the business remains viable".