WORKERS in Dublin Bus have been warned that the company's future is at risk if they do not accept changes to terms and conditions aimed at saving almost €12m a year.
The company could be wound up unless agreement is reached on cost savings, and an independent report said a three-day strike mounted by workers in August both damaged the company's reputation and failed to resolve the issues.
Workers will ballot on new proposals by independent consultants Noel Dowling and Ultan Courtney next week, which will be the fifth time workers have voted on proposals to make savings.
"Every effort has been made to reach agreement with the drivers. We ask the drivers to agree to the final proposals that have been made in the interests of the company, Dublin Bus workers and the travelling public. We are clear, however, that the outlook for Dublin Bus and its employees is very stark if this final effort does not succeed."
It is understood that unions are unlikely to recommend rejection, with one source saying that "high stakes" were involved. If the proposals were rejected, the Government could "take a different view" and decide to wind down the company, one said.
The consultants were appointed by a group comprising the Government, Irish Congress of Trade Unions and employer's group Ibec to investigate why negotiations had failed despite 12 visits to the Labour Relations Commission and three trips to the Labour Court.
As part of this process, the group asked Dublin Bus management to further postpone implementation of their cost-reduction measures.
The recommendations will be put to drivers and voted on next week.
Dublin Bus said it endorsed the report's recommendations and looked forward to a "positive outcome".
The dispute centres on changes to pay and working conditions, with sources saying the main sticking points were proposals to change the amount of time given to drivers to travel to their place of work, and the issue of spare drivers to fill gaps in the roster having to work anti-social hours and not being promoted.
"We welcome the report," the National Bus and Rail Union said. "The reasons for the rejection as described are accurate."
Some 2,500 drivers are employed by the company.