City services may be hit as unions at Bus Éireann vow indefinite strike
Around 110,000 Bus Éireann passengers could be left without a service indefinitely after unions announced an all-out strike will take place from February 20 that could ultimately spread to Irish Rail and Dublin Bus.
The announcement of the indefinite strike by unions representing Bus Éireann came on the same day the semi-state company celebrated its 30th anniversary yesterday.
Siptu's transport sector organiser Willie Noone said the strike would go ahead unless Bus Éireann's CEO Ray Hernan confirmed the company would hold talks without "preconditions". Those conditions include the company's controversial plans to cut premium payments and overtime rates from the same date.
Unless that happens, all Bus Éireann intercity, regional and Expressway services will grind to a halt - affecting 2,600 staff and approximately 110,000 passengers nationwide who rely on the service each day.
However, school bus services will be exempt from the action.
Mr Noone also warned that other transport companies belonging to CIÉ - including Irish Rail and Dublin Bus - could join the action at a later date.
"There are disputes bubbling under the surface at other CIÉ companies," he said. "They're aghast at what happened to their colleagues at Bus Éireann. They've put huge pressure on us to actually convene a meeting to discuss with them manners and ways they can support their colleagues."
"This dispute at Bus Éireann has really raised the bar and it may well now spread and have contagion to other CIE companies," he warned.
He also didn't rule out school bus drivers "getting dragged into it very quickly".
But Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU), said a reprieve was possible over the next fortnight if Bus Éireann's acting CEO agreed to drop the contentious cuts.
"All he has to do is write a letter to the trade unions and request a meeting without preconditions," he said. "That would solve it."
Willie Quigley, regional officer for the Unite union, last night accused the company and Transport Minister Shane Ross of "holding the country to ransom" by refusing to convene a forum of all stakeholders.
He also asked that all relevant information be published, and that Bus Éireann should "withdraw threatened cuts so that meaningful talks could take place".
Bus Éireann management refused to rule out cuts to pay and overtime. However, Mr Hernan said he was "more than willing to hear any alternative proposals they (the unions) have for achieving savings of €30m."
"Bus Éireann will not put preconditions on any talks that will assist in addressing the current financial crisis to ensure the long-term viability of the company," he said.
But he stressed "necessary efficiencies must be found within the company because it is a long-term solution and not a short-term fix, which is required".
Mr Ross urged both sides to get back to the table "without any preconditions to address the serious problems stemming from its commercial Expressway services", which is expected to lose €6m this year.
He added he was disappointed by the unions' intention to strike but insisted he would not intervene directly.