Bus staff threaten strike over cuts to pay and holidays
BUS Eireann staff will lose three days' holidays and be hit with cuts in overtime payments from January after the company decided to force through cost-cutting measures.
The move provoked fury from the company's trade unions, which warned that workers could take industrial action over the changes to terms and conditions.
The move could have serious implications for passengers who will be forced to find alternative ways to work from January 13 next if strike action ensues.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), which represents almost half of the company's 2,500 workers, said the changes were a "bolt out of the blue" and announced without any consultation.
In a letter to staff, Bus Eireann chief executive Martin Nolan said the changes were made because unions were "unwilling" to engage in Labour Court cost-cutting talks.
The company needs to cut €9m from its costs in 2013, or face crippling losses.
"As it is imperative that the company makes the required savings there is now no option but to implement the changes," Mr Nolan wrote.
"It is regrettable that these steps have to be taken," he said. "However, they are necessary in order to protect basic pay and jobs."
The CIE group, which includes Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus and Iarnrod Eireann, is under severe financial pressure and has been ordered by government to make savings.
Dublin Bus is in talks with its unions, while Iarnrod Eireann made an agreement last summer to reduce costs and numbers. Some 200 rail workers will leave the company this month as part of the cost-cutting process.
The changes in Bus Eireann include:
• Cuts in overtime rates from 1.5 times to 1.25 times, including Sundays and public holidays.
• Reduction in premium payments for public holidays.
• An increase in the working week from 36 hours to 39 for clerical staff and executives.
• Cuts in expenses and other allowances, including shift payments.
• Loss of three days holidays for 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Workers are represented by SIPTU and the NBRU. NBRU, general secretary Michael Faherty, said many of the proposals presented had not been discussed with unions.
"It was a bolt out of the blue for us," he said. "I'll have no option but to get a mandate from our members to stop the company from making these changes. When January 13 comes, we'll have a mandate."
Bus Eireann cautioned against workers taking industrial action, saying it would be "counter-productive".
"We haven't touched core wages, and we haven't reduced job numbers," it said. "But if we can't get the €9m in savings through terms and conditions, we will have to look at alternatives."