Bus Éireann and unions in talks to avert further strike action

Neither side optimistic of an early resolution to proposed roster changes and cost savings

Bus Éireann is seeking cost-reduction measures in an attempt to tackle losses of some €9.4m annually. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Bus Éireann is seeking cost-reduction measures in an attempt to tackle losses of some €9.4m annually. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Talks on the implementation of new work rosters between Bus Éireann unions and management are likely to continue into Tuesday, according to observers.

Negotiations concerning the proposed rosters – which the company say are essential cost-saving measures – got under way at the Workplace Relations Commission on Monday.

Bus Éireann had indicated it would introduce altered rosters for staff in many parts of the country from Sunday.

However, trade union Siptu argued this would breach a Labour Court recommendation advanced last April to bring to an end to a three-week strike at the company.

Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union warned they would ballot for industrial action across the State if the company proceeded with the plans to introduce the new rosters.

Siptu said in a letter to the company that driver representatives in Galway, Drogheda, Broadstone (Dublin), Tralee, Cork and Sligo have been given rosters that are unacceptable to the drivers. The union said it was abundantly clear that plans to implement new rosters would be resisted.

The sides agreed to enter talks, but neither expressed hopes of an early resolution. Union sources said most of Monday would be taken up with the sides setting out their respective positions.

Bus Éireann said it continued to engage in dialogue and consultation with unions on the proposed rosters.

The company has nominated three occasions in recent weeks for the introduction of the new arrangements, but these were deferred in favour of talks with the unions under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

Bus Éireann is seeking cost-reduction measures in an attempt to tackle losses of some €9.4 million annually. The company said failure to adopt cost-cutting measures places it at risk of insolvency.

Speaking as he went into talks on Monday rail union general secretary Dermot O’Leary said a ballot for industrial action over the issue could still be implemented.

He said union representatives have attempted “to engage with the company over the last number of months”, but the firm has “ been unable to produce rosters that would be acceptable to our members”.

Mr O’Leary said bus drivers were working 13- or 14-hour shifts, which were supposed to be a temporary measure. “That’s a pressure point for us at this stage,” he said.

He added there was a significant problem in relation to rosters for new services in Navan, Co Meath.