Bus Éireann services ‘back to normal’ after three week strike

Staff will be balloted on proposals that include 200 job cuts and reduced earnings

Siptu said the Labour Court proposals would involve the ending of routes across rural Ireland.

Siptu said the Labour Court proposals would involve the ending of routes across rural Ireland.

 

Bus Éireann services are returning to normal on Friday after more than 2,500 workers at the company went back to work following a three week long strike.

The workers, who are in a dispute with the company over a proposed survival plan that involves significant cuts to workers’ pay and conditions, called off their industrial action after the Labour Court made a ruling aimed at ending the row with management.

Staff will now be balloted on the proposals, which include 200 job cuts, including 120 among drivers, as well as cuts to earnings over €60,000 and freezes on increments.

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

Bus Éireann estimates the strike, which began on March 24th, cost it up to €500,000 a day and it told the Labour Court it is now insolvent, a fact that the industrial relations body said was of the “gravest significance”.

On Friday, the service manager at Busáras in Dublin, John Sheridan, told RTÉ the focus since the Labour Court recommendation had been on getting services back to normal.

He said this was happening and the company was operating a full Easter timetable but the situation was “extremely fluid”.

Dermot O’Leary, the general secretary of the NBRU, said it would be difficult for Bus Éireann workers to understand the Labour Court recommendation.

The proposals would need to be properly analysed before members could be advised on the union’s view, he added.

“The losers will be crucial while the winners will be silent,” he told Newstalk.

Mr O’Leary said there were a number of issues in the recommendation that would have to be highlighted especially in relation to management - in terms of the ratio of management to workers and the pay of some senior management.

He welcomed the proposal to cut wages for those earning more than €60,000 by up to 10 per cent and said the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport would now have “to answer for their stewardship” of the company .

“We will get over the industrial relations hurdle, that’s what we do. Our members are mature and realistic and behaved with great dignity,” he said, adding that he hoped everyone would play their part to ensure a viable future for Bus Éireann.

Siptu said the Labour Court proposals would involve the ending of routes across rural Ireland.

The court said its recommendation sought to draw a “fair and appropriate balance” between these most significant factors. 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.

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

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