Bus Éireann proposes route closures, sharp cuts to staff earnings

Threats to bus services include Dublin-Clonmel, Athlone-Westport and Dublin-Derry

The NBRU said it was ’fully prepared to engage in an all-out strike’.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The NBRU said it was ’fully prepared to engage in an all-out strike’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Bus Éireann has proposed radical changes to staff earnings and work practices as well as redundancies and the closure of some routes and depots in a attempt to avoid what it describes as potential reckless trading and insolvency.

In a document sent to staff, it says Bus Éireann as currently constituted is “going out of business”. It warns the company’s financial position is deteriorating and that losses for 2016 are now estimated at €9.4 million. It says it lost €1.5 million in January.

Bus Éireann says consideration has been given to closing three existing routes. These are: the X7 Dublin - Clonmel, the 021 Athlone- Westport and the 833 Dublin - Derry. It says closing these routes would save €1.1 million. The company also warns the frequency of servicecs on other routes could be cut back.

It says that because all of its services are integrated, cost reductions of €30 million have to be achieved for losses incurred by its commercial “Expressway” arm to be eliminatedand funds secured to replace 10 buses in its fleet annually.

As well as the previously proposed cuts to premium pay rates, overtime and shift and rota allowances, the new document also puts forward further efficiency measures. It says there is significant scope for cost savings through productivity measures and areas for review and reform include overtime, scheduling, rostering,absenteeism,premium payments ,bonuses and expenses and flexibility.

An updated management document on Monday suggested that the depot in Dundalk and one other could close.

It suggested that up to 60 management, executive and clerical jobs could go. And it proposed compulsory redeployment for drivers of up to 50km.

The document said the more people the company could let go, the more savings could be made but it would have to be done in manner that did not affect services.

The company says that at present there are 1,378 full time drivers who last year worked an average of 1.6 hours overtime per day.

“This equates to 1,636 full time equivalent drivers. In 2016 the average driver paid hours were 9.4 and the average revenue generating driving time was 5.5 hours per day.

Basic pay

It says driver basic rates of pay of approximately €32,000 are not out of line with industry averages and do not constitute an impediment to competitiveness. However it argues that drivers’ total earnings are high. It says last year average earnings were €47,000 with a significant number earning over €60,000 .

“There is a commitment within current agreements to maximize driver utilization and it is the responsibility of managers to ensure all rosters are optimized. This has not happened.”

The company proposes that new drivers will be employed on a flexible hours contract. “A minimum number of hours will be guaranteed to reflect the scheduled service. These contracts may include split days.”

It says the title of Inspector will be eliminated and a new role will be introduced to cover essential managerial and decision making requirements. “The number of such roles will be less than the current number of inspectors reflecting a new proposed structure.”

Clerical staff

Bus Éireann has also proposed major changes to its clerical staff arrangements.

“The current organisational structure to support front line activity is not fit for purpose. It is proposed that all core ‘back office’ activities will be centralized to maximize economies of scale. Existing centralized structures will also be streamlined. Appropriate roles will be maintained in regions to support operational and customer focused functions.

It says the average rate of clerical pay at approximately €45,000 is “excessive and cannot be justified”.

“Normally a company would have more people at the standard pay levels and reducing to a much smaller number with higher level responsibilities. In Bus Éireann the pyramid is inverted, There are no clerical staff on the base clerical grade and 45 per cent are at staff officer level.”

“There are currently 60 managerial, 58 executive grade and 220 clerical staff employed. The numbers involved and the costs associated with these are materially out of line for a company the size of Bus Éireann. It is expected that significant reductions will take place in all categories.”

The company says maintenance work needs to, in as far as it is possible, take place outside of the normal bus schedule and staff working arrangements must reflect this.

It company envisages closing a number of existing depots and garages and says some existing non-core activities are likely to be out-sourced.

Siptu said the Bus Éireannproposals only served to create more uncertainty and fear among the workforce and the public transport users.

The National Bus and Rail Union described the document as “incendiary”.

Unions said they would resist any attempts by management to reduce our members’ pay and conditions

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he had not received the new Bus Éireann document and would not be making any comment.