Bus Eireann dispute: Unions may halt strike when proposal issued
UNIONS may halt a strike at Bus Eireann when the industrial relations' court of last resort issues a proposal to end the dispute.
A Labour Court hearing began this afternoon after a third round of talks collapsed at the Workplace Relations Commission this morning.
It is unclear when the court will issue its recommendation, but it likely to try to do so as soon as possible.
When the recommendation is issued, a collective decision will be taken by all five unions on whether to suspend industrial action while a ballot on the proposal takes place. Sources indicated they are likely to lift the pickets.
A total of 1,900 workers have been on strike for over two weeks over payroll cuts as the company attempts to stave off the threat of insolvency next month.
Many passengers have turned to private operators and management fears that many may not return when the dispute is resolved.
Speaking on his way into the hearing, Siptu Transport Division Organiser, Greg Ennis, said a decision had not been taken on whether industrial action would called off.
He said after the court issued its recommendation, the national committees of the five Bus Eireann unions will take a collective decision on "the best course of action".
General Secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union, Dermot O'Leary, said unions would make a submission to the court today and it may decide to engage in talks with the parties this evening.
He claimed there are "forces at play" that would prefer to see the demise of Bus Éireann, rather than concentrate on securing its future.
Unions claimed they had agreed savings worth €18m through a voluntary redundancy scheme and efficiencies at last night's talks.
It is understood that there were disagreements when management sought further savings by replacing basic pay, overtime and premium rates with a single rate.
They questioned why further savings were needed "to deal with a €9m problem", which is the value of the company's losses last year.
Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan has warned that Bus Éireann faces insolvency next month.
In a statement, Bus Éireann said progress was made at talks and agreement reached to eliminated many inefficiencies in work practices.
However, it said "an offer" made by the company to help deliver "financial viability" was rejected by unions representing drivers.
"We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of the ongoing industrial action," said a spokesperson.