All-out strike at Bus Éireann will begin at midnight
School buses not affected by strike - but could be brought into the dispute 'very, very quickly'
The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) has announced an immediate all-out strike at Bus Éireann from midnight.
Talks between five unions lasted for more than three hours with unions saying it is indefinite.
General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said a letter issued on March 22 by Bus Éireann Management was "clearly the straw that has broken the back in terms of spelling out exactly what the real agenda is here".
He claimed the new management structure at Bus Éireann have clearly signalled that they are "intent on pursuing a race to the bottom".
He said: "The representatives from all Five Trade Unions met today to consider this most recent letter from Bus Éireann, those representatives reflected the extreme and at this stage, uncontainable anger among Grades."
The Group went on to say that it was a "source of considerable regret" that the travelling public are going to be discommoded as a result of the decision.
"The NBRU will now engage in an all-out indefinite strike from Midnight tonight in response to Bus Éireann’s appalling declaration of war on its own workforce. The NBRU remains available at any stage to reengage on an efficiency based agenda in order to resolve the Expressway crisis.”
Siptu said school buses will not be affected by the all-out strike - but could be brought into the dispute "very, very quickly".
Spokesman Willie Noone said that the decision to take an almost immediate and indefinite strike was "not very difficult at all" in a dispute over "cuts to pay, the casualisation of work and threat of job losses at the company".
He said the only debate over the course of a three hour meeting between reps from five different unions, was how quickly they would take action.
"All unions had to reach into their souls because this dispute is trying to maintain services for the travelling public, particularly in rural areas," Mr Noone said.
"The only decision we had to take was do we go immediately as of midnight tonight or do we give a further period of time and we're very, very conscious that the travelling public are going to be put out over this decision, but ultimately we have allegiance to our members and our members are being treated disgracefully at this time.
"They're being destroyed at this moment in time by the management in place," he added.
- Read More: 'Maintaining the status quo now is simply not an option' - Passengers likely to face all-out strike as Bus Eireann axes routes and imposes cuts
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald (below) said the impending strike at Bus Eireann is in “nobody’s interest” but the problem “is not simply a question of taxpayer funding”.
Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil today that people with “real insight” into how the company operates acknowledge there are improvements to be made.
“Trade unions and management have publicly acknowledged that issues need to be dealt with within the company in terms of efficiency,” she said, adding: “We do not want taxpayers' money to be used in an inefficient manner.”
Ms Fitzgerald urged the company and unions to enter “realistic negotiations that will lead to an agreement and deal with the problems the company is facing".
She continued: “Both sides have acknowledged that these are part and parcel of what needs to be addressed.”
She rejected suggestions from Solidarity-PBP TD Mick Barry that there is “a do-nothing Government and a do-nothing Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport who refuses to intervene” .
“As soon as the economy had recovered and we were in the position to invest again, this Government showed its goodwill to those services by investing.
“There was an 11pc increase this year and a 13pc increase last year and Bus Éireann received a 21pc increase in PSO funding in 2016,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“When the money has been available, we have shown our goodwill and invested further.”
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Robert Troy says he is stunned that Transport Minister Shane Ross is continuing to remain silent on the dispute.
He said people right across Ireland are facing significant disruption in the days ahead.
"Minister Ross has been warned time and time again that an all-out strike is a very real possibility, but instead of being pro-active on the issue he instead decided to remain as a silent bystander. Now we are at the edge of the cliff with an all-out strike only hours away.
Mr Troy said he questioned Minister Ross in the Dáil on Wednesday about his involvement in overseeing the creation of a new plan to address the company’s loss making situation and restore it to a sustainable future.
"This is the plan that the company is seeking to implement from midnight tonight which is likely to lead to an all-out strike. I asked the Minister to confirm whether he sanctioned the implementation of this plan. He refused to answer the question on multiple occasions."
In a statement released this evening Minister Ross said he was "deeply concerned" at the impact this strike will have on the travelling public.
He said: "In the last week, both management and trade unions have highlighted their willingness to discuss improvements in the company’s operations and efficiency.
"It is now time for both sides to show this willingness can result in an acceptable and fair agreement that safeguards the company’s future and all of those who rely upon it."
Bus Éireann have said that they are "extremely disappointed" that the strike has been called and that the action will cause "major inconvenience to our customers and exacerbate the perilous financial situation at the company".
"The company is facing insolvency in a few short months and not acting to implement cost savings urgently would be completely irresponsible," read a statement on Thursday evening.
"The efficiencies we are seeking to introduce relate to work practices, which must be put in place if the company is to have a viable and sustainable future."
Bus Eireann has apologised to passengers for any inconvenience caused by the action, reiterating that school services should not be affected.
Meanwhile, Irish Rural Link (IRL) have expressed their disappointment at the "extremely short notice" of the strike.
"This short notice will really inconvenience people living in rural areas who rely on Bus Eireann services to travel to work, college and indeed hospital appointments. The short notice means that many people will be unable to arrange alternative travel arrangements," a spokesperson said.
"People who rely on Bus Eireann to access hospital appointments will have to cancel, which they were most likely waiting a long time for in the first instance."
IRL are also disappointed that the talks have once again broken down without any resolution and that the machinery of the state have failed to resolve this.
IRL have called on Minister for Transport, Shane Ross to now intervene and become involved in fresh talks.
A Translink spokesperson said that cross border coach services operated by Bus Eireann will not be operating.
Translink’s cross border Goldline coach services - the X2 from Belfast to Dublin Airport and Dublin city centre and X4 from Derry - will operate as per normal timetable, and with extra capacity where required.
“However, services on the X1 and X3 timetables, which are shared with Bus Eireann, will be subject to disruption. For further details please check our website www.translink.co.uk," the spokesperson said.
“Cross border travellers can also travel to Dublin on our frequent cross border Enterprise train services."