Bus Éireann staff commence indefinite all-out strike

Over 100,000 passengers facing travel disruption, including 1,500 schoolchildren

Five trade unions, representing the 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann, announced the strike after a three-hour meeting on Thursday. Photograph: The Irish Times

Five trade unions, representing the 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann, announced the strike after a three-hour meeting on Thursday. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

About 100,000 Bus Éireann passengers face travel disruption from this morning as staff at the company commence an indefinite strike.

The work stoppage will also affect about 1,500 children who use regular Bus Éireann services under the school transport scheme.

The company’s separate fleet of school buses which operate under the scheme will not be affected by the strike although the trade union Siptu warned that it could become embroiled in the dispute “very quickly”.

There are also concerns the strike could potentially spread to Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus, which also form part of the broader State-owned CIÉ transport group.

Five trade unions, representing the 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann, announced the strike after a three-hour meeting on Thursday.

The decision followed the move by management on Wednesday to implement unilaterally nearly 50 work-practice changes and efficiency measures. The company argued that the measures were essential if it was to have a viable and sustainable future.

Bus Éireann said industrial action would cause major inconvenience to its customers “and exacerbate the perilous financial situation at the company”.

“To be clear, losses for January and February in 2017 are 41 per cent higher than for the same period last year – and losses in 2016 were €9.4million. The company is facing insolvency in a few short months and not acting to implement cost savings urgently would be completely irresponsible.”

“The board and management have twice postponed the introduction of efficiency measures – which are all within current collective agreements, and do not affect basic wages or current terms and conditions – to allow for 10 days of talks in two separate sessions at the Workplace Relations Commission. ”

Cut jobs

“We sought savings of €12m from a payroll of €133m – or 9 percent – but unions were only prepared to cede €0.5m on the current overtime bill of €13million.”

However unions said the real objective of management was to cut jobs and terms and conditions to reposition the company as a low cost transport provider.

Siptu said the true agenda of management was “to prepare the company for the future privatisation of public bus services”.

The general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O’Leary said management were determined to “drive a State-owned company into becoming a yellow-pack employer”.

Pickets are to be placed on seven Bus Éireann facilities which were shared with employees of Iarnród Éireann.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he was deeply concerned at the impact the strike would have on the travelling public and he urged both sides to demonstrate their previously stated “willingness to discuss improvements in the company’s operations and efficiency”.

The employers group Ibec said a strike was in “no one’s interest”, while Retail Excellence said the action “will cause havoc for our retailers who will see a negative impact on footfall and retail sales activity at a time when they can least absorb it”.