Tuesday 19 September 2017

Bus Eireann on brink of strikes as date is set for pay cuts

Stock image PA
Stock image PA

Anne-Marie Walsh

Bus Eireann is on the brink of industrial action after Chief Executive Ray Hernan this afternoon set a date to implement staff cuts next month.

In a letter, Ray Hernan said Sunday premium shifts will be cut by 20pc, rota and shift premium payments will be axed, and overtime rates cuts from February 20.

In addition, there will be a 10pc reduction in allowances across all grades and sick pay benefits will be based on salary only.

Unions have estimated that the cuts will reduce earnings by up to 30pc, although Mr Hernan has denied this.

Mr Hernan said workers' earnings will drop by 10pc on average, following a 2pc pay rise that the company has offered staff.

Mr Hernan said it was accepted that Bus Eireann is in a critical financial crisis and losses for last year will be between €8m and €9m.

Unions including Siptu and the Nbru have a mandate for industrial action if the company imposes the cuts and have threatened an all-out strike.

Warning

Mr Hernan warned that any industrial action will result in a significant deterioration in the company finances and will therefore require that even greater savings have to be found.

As a result, he said a date of February 20 had been decided "to facilitate meaningful engagement with staff representatives".

He accused unions of putting the jobs of the company's 2,600 staff and the future of the company at risk and "need to act responsibly".

"I have already informed you that we will face insolvency unless we take action to avoid placing all jobs at risk," said Mr Hernan.

"There is no change to this position."

He said both management and the board of directors recognise the seriousness of the situation facing the company.

Mr Hernan said they "are determined to take whatever actions are appropriate and necessary to secure the long term future for this company and by doing so, protecting the maximum number of viable jobs".

He said he was extremely disappointed that unions have refused the company's invitation to meet to discuss measures "which must be taken".

"I believe the trade unions are risking the future employment of the staff and our company and need to act responsibly," he said.

"This failure to engage now leaves management with no other option but to proceed with the necessary changes to safeguard Bus Éireann, in the best interests of our customers, staff, and stakeholders."

He said it would be irresponsible of management "not to take remedial action"

As a result, he said the cuts would be implemented from Monday February 20.

He said from that date, the company will roll out a more "flexible" method for covering for core drivers.

The Chief Executive said this may include hiring part time and casual staff to deliver efficient customer timetables and services.

The cuts are in addition to measures including a ban on overtime and working on rest days that are being implemented at the oment.

Mr Hernan said a review of "all structures" is underway and will be finished by the end of March.

He said he was targeting the maximum number of savings on non-payroll times and his management team is redrafting budgets.

He said that part-time school bus drivers are not included in the measures, as they are involved in a "separate process" at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Threats

The bus unions have responded to the warning saying that "to engage in open warfare with its own staff by attacking their core terms and conditions of employment is nothing short of appalling and will achieve absolutely nothing in terms of solving this policy induced crisis". 

It is now abundantly clear that Bus Éireann are determined to continue with providing cover to allow the Shareholder to abdicate its responsibility by turning the focus on ordinary decent Bus Workers to fix a problem not of their creation," he said.

The Group continued: "Threatening workers with horrendous pay cuts and exposing commuters to unnecessary travel chaos is no way to run a Public Transport system for the Citizens of the State and it is a sad indictment of both the Policy makers and those in Government who it seems, are acting as cheerleaders for this disgraceful attack on working people, their families and the travelling public.

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