Bus Éireann chief 'threw a bomb into a volatile situation'
The threat of an all-out Bus Éireann strike has deepened after unions accused its boss of "stoking up a raging fire" by asking them to draw up an alternative plan for €12m cuts.
They have called on Bus Éireann's acting chief executive Ray Hernan to withdraw his plan to impose cuts in just over two weeks, which will trigger an all-out strike.
But the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) and Siptu said he added fuel to the fire by failing to do this, and by suggesting they come up with their own proposals to achieve the savings. Although he has indicated he is prepared to attend talks without pre-conditions, Mr Hernan's spokesperson said he had not yet withdrawn his letter outlining the cuts or invited unions to discussions.
The deadline for the cuts is February 20, and Mr Hernan recently told an Oireachtas committee that he must present a final plan to achieve €30m savings to the board in March.
Bus Éireann faces the threat of insolvency within 11 months, after losses of €9m last year.
General secretary of the Nbru Dermot O'Leary said it was "akin to throwing an incendiary device at an already volatile situation" for Mr Hernan to suggest unions come up with alternative proposals.
"Mr Hernan's suggestion that he would on the one hand seek to protect 'core pay', whilst at the same time slashing upwards of €8,000 plus, through cuts to shift and overtime rates, from a bus driver on a salary of €42,000, is insulting," he said.
Siptu transport organiser Willie Noone described Mr Hernan's position as "obstinate" and said he has had ample time to withdraw the plan for cuts.
"It is becoming clearer to this union that he wants to remain a puppet of the Government and implement its policy of putting all routes out to tender and to destroy a very good public transport company, and the conditions of the workers employed in the transport sector as well," he said.
Earlier, there appeared to be signs that Bus Éireann was offering an olive branch to unions. When asked if it would withdraw the letter outlining the cuts, spokeswoman Nicola Cooke responded: "If the unions come to us and agree to engage with us, that's something that we can consider."
Fianna Fáil has vowed to keep up pressure on the Government after a motion it tabled calling on it to intervene in the dispute was passed this week. Transport spokesperson Robert Troy said "motions cannot be passed in the Dáil without implementation", although the party cannot table motions of no confidence under its 'confidence and supply' arrangement.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said it was up to management and unions to resolve the issue.