Thursday 27 April 2017

Bus Éireann invite unions to talks in bid to avert all-out strike

Stock image PA
Stock image PA

Anne-Marie Walsh

BUS Éireann has issued an invitation to unions to talks in a bid to avert an indefinite all-out strike on Monday week.

But the National Bus and Railworkers Union has responded by saying it will not enter discussions until the company formally withdraws "offensive" correspondence outlining cuts to workers' pay.

In the letter sent today, Bus Éireann's Chief Human Resources Officer KS Byran said it is available to begin "intensive" talks directly with unions or at the Workplace Relations Commission.

He said this is to seek an agreed resolution "in advance of the expiry of the notice of industrial action" on February 20. Mr Byran said the company has always been willing to attend talks without pre-conditions.

The letter says all parties are now aware that any industrial action will "only exacerbate the financial crisis and hasten the demise of the company".

The five unions at the company have threatened to go on strike "from that date after the company announced it would impose cuts.

Unions claim the cuts – worth €12m – would reduce workers' earnings by up to 30pc but Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan says the average is 10pc.

Mr Hernan has warned that the commercial semi-state company could go bust before the end of the year if a €30m cost-cutting plan is not rolled out as soon as possible.

The cuts include the axing of shift payments, cuts to Sunday premium pay and overtime, and a 10pc cut in allowances. In addition, a pool of casual and part-time drivers and contractors would be set up.

"We are available to commence an intensive engagement either directly, or under the auspices of the WRC to seek an agreed resolution in advance of the expiry of the notice of industrial action," says the letter.

"We recognise that agreement will only come through negotiation and all sides have to be willing to compromise in order to find a solution. For our part we have always been willing to engage without pre-conditions and we would urge the Trade Unions to do likewise."

It says the company is wiling to consider any alternative suggestions that unions or staff may have to deal with the financial crisis and secure the long-term future of the company.

The letter says the financial crisis at Bus Éireann is at a critical stage and actions need to be taken urgently "if we are to avoid reckless trading and insolvency". 

It says it is extremely disappointing that the unions have refused to engage with the company to find a solution to the financial crisis. 

In his response, the General Secretary of the Nbru, Dermot O'Leary, says "the world and his mother" is more than aware that Mr Hernan's correspondence in letters last month to staff are a barrier to begin any discussions.

"All sides to this dispute owe it to the customers, the taxpayers, and those that work for Bus Éireann to engage in extensive broad ranging discussions towards preventing the type of travel chaos that will inevitably ensue if we simply do nothing," he said.

"The NBRU, will for our part, commit to such discussions if we are formally invited to so do."  

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