Bus Éireann strike ‘unavoidable’ due to company intransigence – Siptu

Company’s management blames union ‘inflexibility’ for breakdown in the talks

Siptu’s Willie Noone and David Lane: Noone says union members ‘never would try and justify unnecessary overtime’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Siptu’s Willie Noone and David Lane: Noone says union members ‘never would try and justify unnecessary overtime’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The board of Bus Éireann is expected to meet on Wednesday morning to decided on what action to take following the collapse of talks aimed at finding a resolution to the company’s financial crisis.

Trade unions have warned that any unilateral moveby the company to impose changes to terms and conditions for staff will lead to an immediate all-out strike.

On Tuesday, Siptu said a strike at Bus Éireann was “unavoidable” due to intransigence on the part of the company’s management.

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone claimed management had not engaged with trade unions in a fair and equitable manner.

Talks between unions and management at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) broke down on Monday night, raising the prospect of serious travel disruption for passengers in the weeks ahead.

Bus Éireann on Monday blamed union “inflexibility” for the breakdown in the talks.

The company said on Monday that while inefficiencies had been acknowledged and accepted by unions, “there was a refusal to accept any reduction of earnings, including unnecessary overtime earnings”.

The unions have rejected the company’s assertions and alleged that management intransigence was the cause of the collapse of the process.

Entered talks in good faith

Mr Noone said: “Siptu representatives indicated throughout the engagement with the Workplace Relations Commission that every effort would be made to avoid a dispute and to deliver an outcome that would be acceptable to all parties. However, we said would not be able bring to our members in Bus Éireann any plan which would slash wages and terms and conditions.

“We entered the talks in good faith. Our proposal would help drive out inefficiencies while simultaneously securing a decent wage for workers but this proposal was not deemed sufficient for management who claimed it would not bring in immediate savings even though there have been huge savings made by the company over recent years.”

Mr Noone said members of his union would “never would try and justify unnecessary overtime”.

However, he said Siptu representatives “will not allow for wages earned in excess of a basic rostered week that brings a meagre wage to a decent wage; to be removed without agreement by management.

“What management proposed was that some drivers would drive considerably more hours and retain traditional payments but others would not be given the same opportunity and hence get their pay cut.

“The unfairness and inequity of that proposal were highlighted immediately by Siptu representatives. The company also refused to support a strict time- bound process of driving out the inefficiencies identified which made Bus Éireann management’s position totally unreasonable.”

‘Savage reductions in pay’

He said management wanted to eradicate the inefficiencies operated by the company for years almost immediately, even though it could be shown that this would result in savage reductions in pay for workers and that changes would be imposed inequitably.

“Bus Éireann management proposals to date have indicated that cuts to terms and conditions would be concentrated on ordinary workers who provide services at unsocial hours, and weekends. The company stops short of providing any detail regarding changes to the numbers of senior management or their terms of employment. This absence of detail would have made any proposals difficult to accept, as again it appears that the ordinary worker in Bus Éireann is expected to shoulder all the envisaged cuts.”

Open to sitting down

Meanwhile the general secretary of the National Rail and Bus workers Union (NRBU) Dermot O’Leary told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that his organisation was open “to sitting down with a pencil and paper” to work out rosters “depot by depot”.

He said he could not understand why the company needed a month to work on creating rosters.

Mr O’Leary said his union’s members were willing to be guided by the WRC, but that it was unrealistic to expect staff to take a pay cut before efficiencies were agreed.

Mr O’Leary warned that trade unions would respond “on the same day” with strike action if the company announces unilateral changes .

Bus Éireann said on Monday after the break down in the talks at the WRC that management would now report to the company’s board “to urgently re-assess what further action is now appropriate, and necessary, to safeguard the organisation and the service we provide”.