Buses could be off the roads over Easter as latest talks collapse
BUS Éireann services may be off the road this Easter as there is no certainty that an all-out strike will be called off.
The prospect of unions stopping the industrial action that has been going for almost three weeks hinges on the Labour Court issuing a proposal to end a row over payroll cuts.
When a recommendation is issued, a collective decision will be taken by all five unions at the company on whether to suspend industrial action while a ballot on the proposal takes place.
Sources indicated they are likely to lift the pickets at that point.
However, it is unclear when the court will issue its recommendation, although it is likely to do so as soon as possible.
Siptu transport division organiser Greg Ennis said a court recommendation may be issued within days.
He was speaking after the court held an urgent hearing yesterday.
The meeting with unions and management followed the collapse of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission to resolve the dispute.
The court is due to meet the parties again today.
A total of 1,900 workers have been on strike over management proposals to cut costs and stave off insolvency. Many passengers have turned to private operators, and management fears many may not return when the dispute is resolved.
Sources revealed there was agreement on 240 job cuts through voluntary redundancy, at a cost of €20m, at the failed talks.
Unions claimed they had agreed savings worth €18m through the exit scheme and efficiencies.
But a major stumbling block arose when management pressed for further savings by replacing basic pay, overtime and premium rates into a single rate.
It is understood that management discussed a rate of €19.20 an hour, or €39,072 a year for a 39-hour week, for drivers.
However, unions sought a rate of €23 an hour, or annual pay of €46,805, which is closer to current average pay rates.
Unions questioned why further savings were needed "to deal with a €9m problem", which is the value of losses last year.
General secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union Dermot O'Leary claimed there were "forces at play" that would prefer to see the demise of Bus Éireann.
Unions have called on Transport Minister Shane Ross and the National Transport Authority to join discussions on the company's future.
Acting chief executive Ray Hernan has warned that the company faces the threat of insolvency next month.
In a statement, Bus Éireann said that progress was made at the talks and agreement reached to eliminate many inefficiencies.
However, it said "an offer" made by the company to help deliver "financial viability" was rejected by unions.
It apologised to customers for any inconvenience caused due to the industrial action.
Party snap ruffles feathers
Transport Minister Shane Ross is facing criticism for a photograph that appears to show him partying with socialite Amanda Brunker while bus workers are out on strike.
Ms Brunker posted the photograph on her Twitter page on Sunday with the caption "So…this happened last night". In the image the minister is wearing a feather boa while Ms Brunker gives the peace symbol.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the picture would "stick in the craw" of striking bus workers.
A spokesperson for the minister said he was attending a 'Lip Sync' fundraising event at Naomh Olaf's GAA Club in Sandyford.
"In his role as local TD for the constituency, he was asked - and agreed - to be a judge in the competition almost two months ago. He has been a long-time supporter of the club."