Siptu warns about Bus Éireann cost-cutting


Moves by Bus Éireann to introduce unilateral cuts to pay and terms of employment for staff could result in industrial action in transport companies across the wider CIÉ group, Siptu has said.

The trade union is to ballot members at Bus Éireann for industrial action over the company’s plans. On Friday, Bus Éireann said it planned to implement a number of changes to the terms and conditions of staff from January 13th, 2013, as part of a financial recovery plan. The company said this move came as a result of a decision by trade unions to reject its request for a Labour Court hearing on its business recovery proposals.

Among the measures to be implemented are a reduction of overtime rates from 1.5 times to 1.25 times; an increase in working week for clerical and executive staff from 36 hours to 39 hours; cuts in shift, premium and rota payments; the curtailing of annual leave entitlement by three days for three years (2013, 2014, 2015); and a scaling-back of a range of allowance and expense payments by 33.3 per cent.

Bus Éireann said it had repeatedly stated since last June that failure to agree to its recovery plan would leave the company facing potential annual losses of €16 million.

However, Siptu said the decision by the management, within days of Christmas, to threaten staff with pay cuts and major changes to conditions of employment may result in industrial action at the CIÉ companies which also include Dublin Bus and Irish Rail.

Siptu organiser Willie Noone said: “It is not acceptable that staff be informed that their wages are being cut, including basic pay in some circumstances, and that other contractual conditions of employment will be altered at a time when their representatives are engaged in discussions to assist with the financial position of the company.”

He said staff at Bus Éireann were being threatened with further reductions in 2013 and that members would “have no choice but to ballot for industrial action to protect their current conditions of employment”. “Siptu is also engaged in discussions with other CIÉ companies over their financial position and the threat by Bus Éireann to impose cuts without any proper engagement or agreement will jeopardise those discussions and may lead to industrial disputes across the group.”

Union ballot

On Friday, another union at the company, the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union, said it would have to ballot its members to see if they wanted it to prevent the company from implementing the recovery plan without agreement.

The NBRU said it had been in lengthy discussions with management about 16 issues. It said the company referred half of those issues to the Labour Relations Commission, where the sides made little progress. After that, the union said the firm wanted to refer all issues to the Labour Court. The union says it was not in a position to go to the Labour Court as all the issues had not been discussed at local level.

On Friday, a spokesman for Bus Éireann said that, as it was imperative the company made the required savings, there was “ now no option but to implement changes to employees’ terms and conditions”.

“It is regrettable that these steps have to be taken. However, they are necessary in order to protect basic pay and jobs.”