Bus Éireann’s finances are in a ‘perilous state’, chief warns

Company’s staff told its losses must be addressed and there is no money for pay rises

The chief executive of Bus Éireann has told staff that the company’s finances are in a ‘perilous state’. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The chief executive of Bus Éireann has told staff that the company’s finances are in a ‘perilous state’. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The chief executive of Bus Éireann has told staff that the company’s finances are in a “perilous state”and that its losses must be addressed.

In a letter to the company’s 2,600 employees, Martin Nolan urged staff representatives “to engage meaningfully” with the company on the implementation of a controversial new commercial plan for the business.

He said there was no money available at present for pay rises for staff.

However, he said the new plan would seek “to return Bus Éireann to stability, so that reasonable expectations of staff can be met in the future”.

No details of the plan are set out in the letter.

However, it is likely to focus on the loss-making Expressway inter-city coach service.

Bus Éireann has previously indicated it could seek to separate the Expressway service from the rest of the company, shed up to 150 jobs and place the remainder of staff on inferior terms and conditions, given its financial position.

Unions have signalled that they will strongly oppose any such initiative.

In the letter, Mr Nolan told staff that Bus Éireann’s finances were “in a perilous state, with losses of €5.6 million in 2015 and projected losses of €6 million in 2016.

“These losses must be addressed. Bus Éireann cannot afford to pay a wage claim given the overall trading position of the company.”

Mr Nolan also confirmed that there had been a shake-up of top-level management at the company.

“The chief human resources officer has decided to leave the company to pursue other interests.The chief mechanical engineer will retire in 2017.

“Any further changes to the management team will be advised in due course.”

Mr Nolan said the company had commissioned Grant Thornton to produce a review of management plans to restructure Bus Éireann, “and restore a commercially viable business in the interests of all stakeholders, and principally all employees.

“It is envisaged that the proposed plan will be completed by end of January 2017 and the company will then advise all employees and their trade union representatives accordingly.”

Change programme

Mr Nolan said the company’s newly-appointed chief financial officer Ray Hernan would assume full responsibility for the change programme that would arise at Bus Éireann from the Grant Thornton plan.

“This is a time of great change and challenge for the company and we now have the opportunity to implement a strategy which can create a vibrant and viable future for Bus Éireann.

“This is not without its challenges, but it will require the commitment of all stakeholders and staff to achieve a successful outcome.”

On Thursday, unions at the company said they would engage in extensive consultations with their members before any move towards industrial action in relation to the plans.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross told the Dáil that while the serious financial challenges facing Bus Éireann should be be tackled decisively and effectively, there were no plans to axe six to eight of its routes or privatise the company.