Bus Éireann says it will make profit of €3.5m next year

Company in process of completing restructuring programme and ‘business is turning around’

Bus Éireann chief executive Ray Hernan said December 3rd would be a “watershed moment” for the company. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Bus Éireann chief executive Ray Hernan said December 3rd would be a “watershed moment” for the company. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

State-owned public transport group Bus Éireann hopes to make a €3.5 million profit in 2018, following a €13 million loss this year, according to its chief executive, Ray Hernan.

Mr Hernan confirmed that the company would lose €13 million this year, following a bitter strike in the spring over pay cuts and restructuring, but said the business was turning around.

“We are targeting a €3.5 million profit next year,” he told an Irish Management Institute conference in Dublin on Thursday.

Mr Hernan said that Sunday, December 3rd, would be a “watershed moment” for the company as it would implement the last elements of the restructuring plan agreed with the Labour Court earlier this year.

Speaking after addressing the conference, he explained that on that day Bus Éireann intended introducing new rosters for drivers that would see all of them working five days out of seven, including weekends.

Various local practices grew up within the company under which many senior drivers did not work weekends, even though Bus Éireann is a seven-day service.

This contributed to a €15 million bill for overtime and other premium payments that the bus company paid last year.

The new rosters also mean that drivers will drive for seven hours of a nine-hour day, as opposed to working for four as they did in the past. “Their working day will not be longer, but they will drive more,” Mr Hernan said.

More route closures

About 240 staff are due to take voluntary redundancy from Bus Éireann. About 140 have left and the rest are due to go next year.

Mr Hernan did not rule out further closing or cutting of services on loss-making routes. “We have closed three already and there are more probably to come,” he warned.

He is optimistic that the Government will increase the support it pays to Bus Éireann to provide the free-travel services to over-65s.

Mr Hernan called this a major “bugbear” as his company’s rivals received 70 per cent of the average fare for providing free travel, while Bus Éireann got just 35 per cent.

He found that one challenge of this year’s strike was that management had to deal with five unions. “There was massive union rivalry; they are competing for members,” he pointed out. “That was a big big issue for us both outside and inside the Workplace Relations Commission. ”

Mr Hernan remarked that if a representative of one union said one thing, the officer of another would come out with an even stronger statement.

Bus Éireann has lost €30 million over the past 30 years, half of that within the last two years.

Its chief executive argued that it needed a sustainable business plan for the future, and that did not just involve pay cuts but changes in work practices and structures.

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