Sunday 23 July 2017

Court in late bid to avert all-out strike action at Bus Éireann

An industrial relations troubleshooting body is working behind the scenes in a bid to avert an all-out strike at Bus Éireann. (Stock picture)
An industrial relations troubleshooting body is working behind the scenes in a bid to avert an all-out strike at Bus Éireann. (Stock picture)

Anne Marie Walsh

An industrial relations troubleshooting body is working behind the scenes in a bid to avert an all-out strike at Bus Éireann from Monday.

Officials from the Workplace Relations Commission were assessing whether there is any point inviting the five unions and management to last-ditch talks to resolve a dispute over payroll cuts under a €30m cost-cutting plan.

Yesterday afternoon, sources predicted that the commission will issue an invitation today to negotiations to avoid industrial action that threatens to spread through CIÉ.

Read more: Taoiseach makes direct appeal to Bus Éireann bosses and workers to call off strike

The National Bus and Railworkers' Union has warned that Bus Éireann's plan to impose cuts on staff to avoid insolvency will be met with the "fiercest of resistance not seen in this country for decades".

Acting chief executive Ray Hernan has warned that the company faces the threat of insolvency by May unless it can sign off on a survival plan this month.

Sources said bringing forward extra funding that is expected to be allocated to the Free Travel scheme next year may be seen as one avenue to resolve the impending crisis.

Negotiations are already ongoing with Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to review funding for the scheme. According to consultants Grant Thornton in a recent report on the company, the average Expressway fare is €11.78 and the subsidy represents just 41pc of this.

Transport Minister Shane Ross told an Oireachtas committee yesterday that efforts are afoot "to ensure the two sides do come together" and he realises the disaster it would be if the company had to close down.

He ruled out intervening in the dispute and dismissed deputies' claims that the Government is attacking public transport in rural areas as "nonsense".

Mr Ross claimed the Government is expanding the public bus service in rural Ireland.

Anti Austerity Alliance deputy Mick Barry said there had been some "proper tulips" in the role of minister of transport in the past but Mr Ross was the first one "to bring the national bus company to the brink of insolvency".

He noted that Mr Ross had once described his brief as a "doddle" but said he had "some neck" and was driving a "privatisation agenda", which the minister denied.

Read more: Transport Minister Shane Ross says claims Government is 'attacking rural Ireland's public bus service' are 'nonsense'

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on transport Robert Troy said he did not have confidence in the minister and he should redeem himself by setting up a forum of all the stakeholders as he did not believe the €30m cuts could be addressed at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Independent deputy Michael Fitzmaurice said he was aware of a depot where there were 19 workers earning more than €1,500 a week and four managers on €100,000 a year.

Mr Ross said the Government was defending rural services by increasing the amount of funding to Bus Éireann to run public service obligation routes.

He said this rose by 11pc this year, and 13pc last year, while Bus Éireann benefited from a 21pc increase in its subvention last year.

"Some deputies have alleged this Government is attacking the public bus service in rural Ireland," he said.

"That's nonsense. We're expanding the public bus service in rural Ireland through increasing the amount of PSO funding to Bus Éireann."

He said people needed to stop confusing issues.

Irish Independent

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