Bus Éireann staff set for all-out strike from February 20th

Unions representing 2,600 workers say plans to cut earnings must be withdrawn

Minister for Transport Shane Ross says  a strike at Bus Éireann would be “very damaging to the travelling public, the workforce, rural communities and the company itself”

Minister for Transport Shane Ross says a strike at Bus Éireann would be “very damaging to the travelling public, the workforce, rural communities and the company itself”

 

Unions have warned an indefinite all-out strike by staff at Bus Éireann will begin on February 20th if the company goes ahead with radical cost-saving proposals which will reduce pay significantly.

All Bus Éireann services, with the exception of school bus transport, would be affected by the stoppage.

Unions representing the 2,600 staff at the State-owned company also warned that any strike at Bus Éireann could spread, and ultimately affect school bus transport and and services operated by Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann.

Willie Noone of Siptu said if the company withdrew its highly controversial plans to cut premium payments and overtime rates from February 20th, the union would be prepared to meet for talks at the earliest opportunity.

Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union (NBRU), said there was now a two-week opportunity for the company “to step back from the brink and come to its senses”.

Bus Éireann’s acting chief executive officer Ray Hernan said the company wanted to reduce its cost base by €30 million per year, with payroll costs accounting for 40 per cent of that reduction.

He said he would meet the unions at any time without preconditions, and was “more than willing to hear any alternative proposals they have for achieving savings of €30million”.

Bus Éireann has said its financial position is precarious, facing losses of €9 million for last year and in danger of running out of money by Christmas unless drastic action is taken.

Mr Hernan said the necessary efficiencies had “to be found within the company because it is a long-term solution, and not a short-term fix, which is required”.

Very damaging

Shane Ross

He again called on the company and unions to engage in negotiations without any preconditions.

The Minister has consistently rejected suggestions that he should become involved in any talks process.

Siptu divisional organiser Greg Ennis said plans by management to reduce premium payments and overtime rates unilaterally represented an unprecedented attack on members’ terms and conditions. Such a situation had never been experienced previously in a semi-State company.

He said a strike would be regrettable, and would affect a lot of people in rural areas. However, the union “had to fight fire with fire”.

Mr O’Leary said industrial action was inevitable as long as the company maintained its position of introducing pay cuts.

Unite regional officer Willie Quigley accused the Minister and Bus Éireann management of “holding communities and unions to ransom through the threatened unilateral imposition of cuts without consultation”.

The Government on Thursday lost a Dáil vote on a Fianna Fáil motion seeking to ensure there were no changes in Bus Éireann’s Expressway service. The motion also urged there should be no changes imposed on staff without agreement.

The Private Members’ Motion was carried by 92 votes to 43. It was the seventh Dáil defeat for the Government.