Bus Éireann may sell company property and assets
As part of revised survival plan, move considered for voluntary redundancy scheme
Bus Éireann suggested in a confidential email to the WRC that funding could be secured to meet the cost of a voluntary redundancy scheme. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Bus Éireann may sell assets including property to part fund a voluntary redundancy scheme for staff as part of a revised survival plan for the company.
Bus Éireann believes the board of its overall parent holding group, CIÉ, will provide it with additional funding in the short term if it produces a viable plan to tackle potential insolvency and uncompetitiveness.
The company suggested in a confidential email on Friday to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that funding could be secured to meet the cost of a voluntary redundancy scheme to be put in place over the next 12-18 months.
Sources suggested this money could be provided by both the CIÉ holding group and by Bus Éireann itself including by means of a sale of assets including property.
The company also indicated for the first time that the immediate threat of insolvency at the company could be overcome by staff co-operation with improved efficiency measures and the implementation of all existing national agreements across the company. Plans for cuts to terms and conditions and further cost-saving measures which were to be included in an all-embracing survival plan which was to have been completed by the end of March would appear to have been shelved.
A planned all-out indefinite strike at the State-owned transport company, which was scheduled to go ahead on Monday, was suspended on Friday after the intervention of the WRC, which invited the parties to talks on Monday.
Management at the company agreed to hold back on the planned unilateral introduction of work practice changes and new efficiency measures next Monday and in turn trade unions suspended their plans for strike action.
The planned closure of the Clonmel-Dublin route on March 12th and the scheduled reduction in frequency of Dublin-Limerick and Dublin-Galway services on the same date have also been deferred pending the outcome of the new talks.
In an email on Friday afternoon, Bus Éireann management told the WRC: “We all want Bus Éireann to survive and prosper. We are very conscious of the significant long-term damage that could be caused by a strike and are willing to engage with the unions and compromise to reach a sustainable agreement. With this in mind and in a final effort to avoid a dispute the company are putting forward the following position. We believe that if we can put forward a viable plan that demonstrates that we are addressing the insolvency and competitiveness issues that we can expect financial support in the short term. This proposal covers all items and there will not be a need for any additional plans such as those suggested for the end of March.”
Bus Éireann said that the issue of uncompetitiveness at the company would significantly be addressed by “restructuring and rationalisation”.
“The implementation of streamlining structures together with improved efficiencies will allow for a reduction in staff numbers. We are confident that if we reach agreement on improved efficiencies and show how this is addressing the imminent threat of insolvency that funds will be made available to provide for the costs of voluntary severance. Releasing staff through voluntary severance could then begin rolling out over the next 12 to 18 months. Redeployment will be a critical element of achieving the core manning numbers as will voluntary severance. The potential voluntary severance packages are likely to be available across all grades. “
Bus Éireann also said in the email it was willing to negotiate with the unions on the issue of a pay increase for staff “in the context of ensuring a plan for future survival without pre-conditions”.
It said any increase must be justified in its own right.
Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the union’s representatives would continue to play their part in trying to avert a national public transport dispute “but we rely on the management of Bus Éireann making genuine efforts to reach a resolution”.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said his members remained on a “war footing” and would be prepared to engage in an immediate all-out strike “should the company plough ahead with any attack on members’ terms and conditions.