Bus Éireann’s cost-saving measures at centre of dispute

Company’s efficiency reforms include demand that drivers use fuel-saving technology

NBRU members picket at Bus Éireann’s Broadstone depot in  Phibsboro, Dublin on Friday morning. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

NBRU members picket at Bus Éireann’s Broadstone depot in Phibsboro, Dublin on Friday morning. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Bus Éireann staff can place pickets at their place of employment, but they could face potential legal difficulties if they seek to involve workers in other companies, say employment lawyers.

On Friday Bus Éireann workers picketed a number of locations which they share with staff in Iarnród Éireann. The rail staff did not pass the pickets and train services were disrupted as a result.

In Cork, where the rail and bus services are more than half a mile apart and separated by the River Lee, rail staff did not go to work, which led to the cancellation of a number of services for some of Friday morning.

Injunction

Even where pickets are not placed, a company not involved in a dispute could seek an injunction to stop workers in another firm that is on strike if they are seeking to incite or encourage its employees to stay away from work.

Since January, Bus Éireann management has introduced a ban on unrostered and unplanned overtime which unions argue has seen some drivers lose between €90 and €150 per week.

Last week, it produced a list of nearly 50 efficiency and cost-saving measures – including a demand that drivers finally start to use fuel-saving technology that was installed on 270 buses some years ago.

In January,acting chief executive Ray Hernan told an Oireachtas committee that a 1 per cent cut in fuel usage would save it €350,000 a year, but drivers refuse to turn on the telematic technology.

First-user checks

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann also wants drivers to carry out what are known as first-user checks,which includes checking the bus’s tyres before it is taken out on the road.

Management sources have maintained that drivers had previously argued that this represented an additional duty and that they would only do it if they were paid extra.

The company insists that drivers are currently paid on average for 9.4 hours per day – with 1.6 hours of this at overtime premium rates – when they only drove for 5.5 hours on scheduled services.

‘Spare drivers’

Under existing arrangements some staff are rostered routinely as “spare drivers” – to take over in the event of someone calling in sick, for example – but in a significant number of cases they are never called upon.

One of these issues is the provision for an unpaid break of 2 hours and 45 minutes which can apply for drivers from the time they finish operating one service to the start of another.

Under its reform proposals, the company also wants to be free to make greater use of sub-contractors to provide services on either a short or long-term basis “in order to eliminate or avoid creation of inefficient vehicle or duty workings”.