Unions and management at Bus Éireann clarify stances

Trade unions insist on ‘industry-leading’ pay terms but admit some staff may earn less

The board of Bus Éireann met on Wednesday to consider its future strategy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The board of Bus Éireann met on Wednesday to consider its future strategy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Trade unions have acknowledged that the eradication of inefficiencies at Bus Éireann may result in some staff earning less than at present.

In letters to the company on Wednesday, they said that any losses incurred by members as part of any new survival plan could be addressed as part of future discussions.

However, unions have insisted that Bus Éireann should continue to provide “industry-leading” terms and conditions for its employees.

Unions also acknowledged that staff numbers may have to be reduced as part of an overall survival plan for the State-owned transport company.

Trade unions representing the 2,600 staff at the company wrote to the company after Bus Éireann sought clarifications on trade unions on their position in relation to proposed cuts in earnings for staff.

Following the collapse of previous talks last Monday on a plan to address the financial crisis at Bus Éireann, management had maintained that while the unions were prepared to accept and acknowledge that inefficiencies existed, they had refused “ to accept any reduction of earnings, including unnecessary overtime earnings”.

However at a board meeting on Wednesday a worker director is understood to have disputed this position and indicated that there might be scope for flexibility on the part of the unions.

In a statement on Wednesday issued after the board meeting, Bus Éireann said: “Due to the perilous state of the company’s finances and the failure to reach agreement with unions at the Workplace Relations Committee last Monday, the board of Bus Éireann convened this morning to hear management outline a number of cost-saving options which could be urgently implemented.

“Before implementing these options, the board have now sought written clarification from unions in relation to their position. Subject to this clarification, which is expected today, there may be an opportunity to re-engage in time-limited talks.

“The board will re-convene again to approve the implementation of cost saving measures, which must be taken to avoid the risk of insolvency .”

In a replying letter to the company, Siptu transport sector organiser Willie Noone said: “A number of inefficiencies are acknowledged and accepted and more need to be identified as to date the focus has been driver related only.

“Siptu is committed to eradicate inefficiencies as this is a mechanism to secure good employment terms for our members into the future .

“It is recognised that any reduction in payroll that is necessary due to the eradication of inefficiencies may result in some members not retaining the same earning capacity into the future and any losses that may be incurred can be addressed as part of any future discussions.

“However the issue of the variability and quantum of earnings and the capacity of the company to reduce and/or attack those earnings now or in the future must form an integral part of the solution.”

Mr Noone said Siptu’s position was to identify the inefficiencies, verify and cost the savings accruing and agree the short timeframe for implementation which would reduce payroll very quickly.

He said reductions in staff numbers could come about only on a voluntary basis.

“The Siptu members and representatives want it noted that they do not want a dispute and are committed to the survival of Bus Éireann, their presence on the maximum number of routes, the maximum number of decent jobs and as their continuing employment in Bus Éireann relies on the company being able to survive and continue to give value for money to the travelling public, their representatives are committed to engage constructively with Bus Éireann management to eradicate inefficiencies in the quickest time period possible to reduce down the overall payroll costs.”

The general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O’Leary said it was recognised that any reduction in payroll that was necessary due an eradication of efficiencies “may result in some staff not retaining a similar earning capacity into the future.

“However we will insist that Bus Éireann continues to provide reasonable and industry-leading terms and conditions for staff.”

He said the union would not enter into an over-arching agreement until it saw clear and undisputable evidence that the burden of change was being carried equally and proportionally across all grades. He said the NBRU would insist on seeing the company’s plans “for the significant cohort of mangers”.

Bus Éireann has argued that it lost over €9 million last year, recorded a deficit of €1.5 million in January this year and on current trends will face insolvency by May.

The company’s board met on Wednesday to consider its future strategy in the aftermath of the breakdown of talks between unions and management at the company on a survival plan.

Unions representing the 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann have warned of an all-out indefinite strike in the event of the company imposing changes to staff terms and conditions without agreement.