Unions say only inclusive talks can resolve Bus Éireann crisis
Company management to appear before Oireachtas transport committee
Bus Éireann said the unions’ decision not to attend talks was “a very regrettable situation”.
The Minister for Transport Shane Ross needs to realise that the only solution to the crisis at Bus Éireann will be for him to convene talks involving all stakeholders, including the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority, unions have argued.
Management at the company is expected to reiterate to an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday that the State-owned transport operator faces running out of money within the next 18 months or so and that all 2,600 jobs in the company are in jeopardy.
Unions representing employees are to meet on Thursday to consider their strategy amid warnings that a dispute over a radical survival plan for Bus Éireann could, if implemented unilaterally, spread into the broader State-transport sector including Dublin Bus and the country’s rail network.
The company experienced a setback for its industrial relations strategy on Tuesday when the Labour Court declined to become involved immediately in dealing with the financial crisis at Bus Éireann.
The company had sought the Labour Court to facilitate a hearing, using a process put in place last year to deal with a staff pay claim. The process was adjourned in December.
The Labour Court invited unions and management at the company to a meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss issues after Bus Éireann publicly sought a hearing.
Speaking afterwards, the trade unions Siptu and NBRU said the Labour Court had found “there would be no viability in reinvigorating the hearing” originally scheduled for December.
However, the unions maintained the Labour Court had said if it was to be of assistance the parties would have to use normal industrial relations procedures.
Siptu transport division organiser Greg Ennis said the company had sought to short-circuit industrial relations processes and procedures.
He said the way the whole dispute at Bus Éireann had been handled by the company was “nothing short of disgraceful”.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the developments on Tuesday showed a lack of awareness on the part of the new management at Bus Éireann as to how to treat their staff and on the workings of the country’s industrial relations machinery.
Bus Éireann did not comment on the Labour Court meeting.
Mr Ennis said the dispute at Bus Éireann was being driven by a false policy. He said it was a policy that could be fixed only by the involvement of management, the unions, the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority. He said the Minister needed to begin listening very, very quickly.
Unions are to meet on Thursday to consider their strategy in relation to the crisis at Bus Éireann.
Senior management at the company are to appear before the Oireachtas transport committee on Wednesday.
Last week the company put forward a radical plan for survival involving redundancies, cuts to premium payments and outsourcing.
Unions refused to attend direct talks with management unless these proposals were withdrawn.
Bus Éireann said on Tuesday it had a “a viable future and can successfully compete but only if we make the necessary changes”.
The company said the decision of the unions not to attend talks was “a very regrettable situation”.
The company added that leadership was required from all sides.
Unions briefed members of the Oireachtas on their views on the crisis on Tuesday.
Siptu urged that the company should be reintegrated back into the broader CIÉ holding company, which had greater financial reserves.