Bus Éireann says it has not paid school bus operators due to strike

Many school bus companies fear protracted strike could put them out of business

A protest by striking Bus Éireann staff has been held outside Leinster House to coincide with the appearance of Minister Shane Ross at the Oireachtas transport committee where he was giving a presentation on Bus Éireann. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

Bus Éireann has admitted that it has been unable to pay some school bus operators because of the strike by its workers.

Almost 1,300 private operators provide services as contractors on behalf of Bus Éireann under the School Transport Scheme, transporting 115,000 children in the State to and from schools.

School bus operators who expected to be paid this week were not because the clerical staff were not there to process the application.

Bus Éireann said a technical solution will be put in place which will see contractors who were due to be paid last week receive their money next week instead.

The company added that its contract agreement with each school bus operator means that it must pay for services within 30 days.

“Payments made next week are well within this range,” Bus Éireann said in a statement.

However, school bus operator Eamonn Callery, who does school runs in Wicklow and Dublin, said the email private companies like his had received from Bus Éireann did not indicate when they would be paid.

He said the text and email sent by Bus Éireann to school bus operators stated: “The only delay is due to the absence of a number of staff due to industrial action. This is not linked to any other matter. Payments due this week will not be in the bank this Friday but will likely be delayed until next week. Again we apologise.”

Struggle

Mr Callery feared that if Bus Éireann workers do not return to work next Monday, school bus operators will start to struggle.

“I’m not satisfied about this. They are saying they are going to pay us, but they are not saying when. If we don’t get paid, I certainly will not be doing the school run after Easter.”

Mark Kerrigan, whose company Kerrigan Coaches does two school runs in Co Wicklow for Bus Éireann, said he normally delivers his invoices by hand to Bus Éireann in Broadstone, but will not pass the picket. Neither can he post the invoices because post office workers will not pass the picket either.

“I don’t blame the workers in Bus Éireann in any shape or form,” he said. “I’m looking for reassurances from the Department of Transport and/or the Department of Education that we will be paid.”

Mr Kerrigan said the email he had received from Bus Éireann was “very vague” and did not guarantee his staff when he will be paid.

He stated there was an urgency about it because the two-week Easter break starts next Friday week and, if invoices are not paid by then, many operators like him will not be returning to the school runs after Easter.

“The margins on the school run are so small that there is no room for error,” he said.