Monday 29 May 2017

Bus Éireann 'trying to align itself' with low-wage private companies for competition - union leader

Bus Eireann buses at Busaras (Stock image)
Bus Eireann buses at Busaras (Stock image)

Anne-Marie Walsh

A union leader has said he suspects Bus Eireann is trying to "align itself" with low-wage private companies so it can engage in "cut throat" competition for future contracts.

The General Secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, Dermot O'Leary, was commenting as he arrived for talks at the Workplace Relations Commission in a bid to resolve a row over pay cuts.

Siptu Transport Sector Organiser Willie Noone said he believes the company wants to impose cuts to generate funds for a voluntary redundancy scheme that would allow the company to exit Expressway.

The commission invited unions and the company to talks earlier this week as an indefinite all-out strike loomed on Monday if the company imposed €12m cuts to earnings.

Unions claim the cuts would reduce workers' wages by up to 30pc, or over €7,000 from the pay of a bus driver on €42,000 a year, but the company claims the average cut would be 10pc.

Bus Eireann agreed to defer the plan to roll out the cuts to attend talks today, and Monday and Tuesday.

Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan outlined the cuts, which include the axing of shift payments and an 10pc reduction in allowances, after revealing losses of €9m last year.

He has warned that the company could be insolvent within 11 months.

The Irish Independent revealed that a report by consultants Grant Thornton advised Bus Eireann that it may have no other option than to exit its loss-making Expressway operation.

"We have suspicions that the real agenda here is not confined to Expressway," said Mr O'Leary. 

"We suspect that the company is trying to position itself for future tendering processes and attempting to align themselves with low wage operators in order to position themselves to get involved in cut throat competition for further Public Service Obligation contracts in the near future."  

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