All-out strike at Bus Éireann now seems almost certain

State-owned transport company to implement cost-saving plan unilaterally

Minister for Transport Shane Ross repeated that he would not become involved in Bus Éireann’s plan for dealing with the financial crisis at the company. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Transport Shane Ross repeated that he would not become involved in Bus Éireann’s plan for dealing with the financial crisis at the company. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

An all-out strike at Bus Éireann now seems almost certain after the company moved to implement unilaterally a series of nearly 50 work practice changes and cost-saving measures.

Trade unions representing the 2,600 staff at the company are to meet on Thursday to decide formally on their response to the move. However, informed sources said a strike was now virtually inevitable.

Bus Éireann acting chief executive Ray Hernan told staff in a letter on Wednesday that an overall survival plan for the company, which will be presented to the firm’s board next Monday, would involve some job losses.

He said that, given the stance of trade unions, there was no basis for further talks on the State-owned transport firm’s financial crisis.

“We deferred critical cost measures while [engaged in talks with unions] at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), but these can no longer be deferred. Maintaining the status quo now is simply not an option.”

Insolvent

He said losses for the first two months of the year were 41 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

Mr Hernan said it was deeply disappointing that the company could not reach agreement with trade unions on achieving necessary payroll cost savings through the elimination of what were agreed to be inefficient work practices, in order to prevent insolvency.

“Numerous clarifications requested by the unions over the last two months have been provided in a bid to progress the changes to address the critical financial position of the company,” he said.

“However, this process has not yielded a resolution. Our responsibility to ensure Bus Éireann can successfully address its impending insolvency and ensure it becomes a viable, efficient and competitive organisation – with an ability to survive long-term – has not been given the critical regard it deserves.

Meaningful

“In their latest clarification, the unions have, in a very general way, indicated a willingness to negotiate and accept a loss of overtime earnings. However, it is now very clear that this willingness only relates to ad-hoc overtime, which amounts to less than €0.5 million in a full year.

“Given the unions’ current position, there is no prospect of the situation changing and, as a result, no basis for talks reconvening.

“Difficult decisions must subsequently be taken to safeguard our company’s future – and as I have consistently said, I am committed to safeguarding basic wages and the maximum number of jobs possible.”

Review

“These proposals will be presented to the board on Monday, March 27th next, and structural changes will commence at the appropriate time, subject to board approval and the necessary funding being secured.”

On Wednesday, Minister for Transport Shane Ross repeated that he would not become involved in Bus Éireann’s plan for dealing with the financial crisis at the company.

Mr Ross said: “I have made it absolutely clear that my intention during the dispute is to keep as far away from it as possible and to leave it to the two parties involved.”