Bus Éireann says services around country resuming

Labour Court recommendation includes 200 job losses and closure of maintenance garage

Unions are to lift their pickets on Bus Éireann depots pending a ballot on the Labour Court recommendations. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Unions are to lift their pickets on Bus Éireann depots pending a ballot on the Labour Court recommendations. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

A now insolvent Bus Éireann would see 200 job cuts, including 120 among drivers, as well as cuts to earnings over €60,000 and freezes on increments if a recommendation by the Labour Court is approved in union ballots.

Drivers have begun returning to work after 21 days on strike after the court issued a 17-page recommendation on Thursday aimed at ending the dispute.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) and Siptu both said their members would return to duty and would consider the detailed document, which also proposes changes to work practices across all grades.

About 2,600 staff have been on strike since March 24th, and the company estimates it has been losing up to €500,000 a day. It has told the Labour Court it is now insolvent.

The proposals from the Labour Court include cuts of 10 per cent to earnings over €60,000, freezes on increments, and the closure of Dundalk maintenance garage. Siptu said the proposals would involve the ending of routes across rural Ireland.

In its recommendation the court said the matter before it was, by common acknowledgement, one that would determine the capacity of the company to survive.

It said Bus Éireann’s assertion that it was insolvent was of the “gravest significance” .

“The court must, as a consequence, give the most serious consideration to the effect of proposed changes on those who work in Bus Éireann.” Its recommendation sought to draw a “fair and appropriate balance” between these most significant factors.

Most difficult circumstances

The court also said that in “most difficult circumstances” it had sought to frame a recommendation which drew a balance between the extreme difficulties facing the company and the legitimate expectations of the staff.

Staff numbers will be reduced through “natural attrition” and voluntary severance to achieve the optimal numbers identified, the recommendations state.

If the recommendations are accepted a minimum of 120 drivers will exit the company on a voluntary severance basis over 12 months, and there will also be 22 job cuts among executive grades.

A new composite rate of pay will apply for every hour worked by drivers up to a maximum of 48 hours. The rates proposed are €17.37 for the first year of service, €18.28 for the second year of service, €19.20 for the third year and €20.11 for year four.

There will be a complete review of all driver rosters and duties, and full implementation of on-board telematics and driver training. Staff will also be expected to take on “any additional flexibilities” relating to customer service and providing assistance to passengers as required. The changes would also involve the full implementation of a seat reservation system.

A 10 per cent reduction in meal and subsistence rates is proposed for drivers and other grades.

Three hours

The 116 executive jobs will be cut by 22. Those in the roles will be expected to increase their working week by three hours to 39 hours, and a 10 per cent reduction to any earnings over €60,000 is proposed.

The recommendations provide for a reassessment of what it describes as certain key matters after 12 months. These include the recommended composite rate for drivers, loss of earnings, the change to the Sunday premium for maintenance staff, and the company’s intended reduction in the earnings of management and executive staff earning over €60,000.

Bus Éireann said it would give due consideration to the Labour Court recommendations.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the union’s contention that “major cultural change is imminent” had been borne out by the recommendation.

“We will now move immediately into a consultative phase with our members across Bus Éireann in order that they will be fully informed in advance of casting their ballot on the fundamental issues contained in the recommendation.”

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said every worker needed to study the recommendation and consider the consequences of accepting or rejecting it.

Arrangements for meetings of members and the ballot will be announced in the coming days.