Bus Éireann "can't countenance" any pay rise for workers

The company says that every 1% added to the payroll costs an extra €1m...

Bus Éireann has warned that it is in too "perilous" a state to be able to offer any pay increase for its employees.

Union workers have been calling for a 21% pay rise, a suggestion the national bus service said it "cannot countenance" at this time.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Bus Éireann's media and PR manager Nicola Cooke said:

"Bus Éireann are facing an acute and critical financial challenge and that needs to be addressed urgently."

She pointed to losses of €5.6m last year and projected losses of €6m for 2016, arguing that restructuring was needed to achieve savings in the region of €6-7m. A plan to do just that is being looked at by Grant Thornton, with Bus Éireann having received a draft review.

If proper action is not taken, she said, the company will run out of cash in a year or two:

"For every 1% added to the payroll, that's an extra €1m... So for a company facing such stark losses, it's just something we couldn't countenance... This is about the survival of the company."

When questioned over how Bus Éireann ended up in such as state, Cooke cited the "very, very low margin market" in which it operators.

"ExpressWay is a commercial service, so it receives absolutely no State subvention. So we have to make this company work and we're dealing in a very competitive environment at the moment."

In terms of that competition, she denied that the company was inefficient and noted that it must deal with the operation of stations and travel centres, as well as higher pension costs:

"A lot of private operators don't have the overheads that we have to that degree."

Unions at Bus Éireann will meet later to decide their next move in a long-running row over reform of the company.

They met last night with the Labour Court as Minister for Transport Shane Ross said Bus Éireann was in a critical financial situation.