Saturday 19 August 2017

Train services under threat if all-out strike goes ahead, union claims

Bus Eireann buses at Busaras (Stock image)
Bus Eireann buses at Busaras (Stock image)

Anne-Marie Walsh

A union has warned that train services in at least five areas will be under threat if an indefinite all-out strike at Bus Eireann goes ahead.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union noted that some Bus Eireann depots are shared with Irish Rail.

"Even though we in the trade union group are not in dispute with Iarnrod Eireann, and we have advised our members accordingly, there is absolutely no guarantee that rail staff will attend at work in locations such as Limerick, Tralee, Waterford, Galway, Sligo etc," said General Secretary Dermot O'Leary.

Meanwhile, NBRU has also accused Bus Éireann of illegally breaching its members' contracts as it prepares for an indefinite all-out strike from Monday.

General Secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O'Leary, urged the company to withdraw "unlawful" changes already imposed or planned next week in a letter to Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan and Chairperson Aidan Murphy.

Unions and the company are due to meet the Workplace Relations Commission this afternoon for exploratory talks in a bid to avert the industrial action.

Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan has warned that payroll cuts will be imposed as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan as the company faces the threat of going out of business within 11 months following €9m losses last year.

"The current position is that the company has imposed changes to be implemented on 20 February next which will have serious implications for our members’ terms and conditions including their rate of pay," said Mr O'Leary in his letter.

"This was done without negotiation and is blatant breach of our members’ rights, both contractual (and, in relation to pre-1986 employees, their statutory) entitlements."

Among the changes already implemented, he said, are a ban on working rest days, and cuts to premium payments and allowances due to come into effect from Monday.

Siptu told an Oireachtas committee  that its members are "resolute in their position" to go on strike on Monday if the company slashes their wages.

But Siptu Divisional Organiser Greg Ennis told the Transport Committee that strike action is "very much avoidable" if the company changes its decision to unilaterally cut members' pay and terms and conditions next week.

He said government transport policy had brought them to a place "where regrettably our rural and inter-city transport bus service could come to a grinding halt and where the risk of contagion is unfortunately growing by the day across other CIE companies".

Mr Ennis said many workers employed in other sections of the public transport sector rely on social welfare payments including Family Income Supplement and this "unfair competition" is hastening a "race to the bottom".

He said a sectoral employment order that would set minimum pay and conditions for the sector is absolutely necessary for workers including drivers within the wider transport sector.

"This approach would stimulate and ensure somewhat fairer competition," he said.

He said a driver who earns €624 for a 39 hour week cannot be expected to "subside" the company by reducing their earnings by between 20pc and 30pc.

"Workers in Bus Eireann cannot be expected to allow all conditions of employment to be set aside, accept pay cuts, agree that for four years they will do whatever the company wants and also accept that a large number of them may have to be compulsory made redundant," he said.

He said the cuts were being imposed despite a recent motion passed by the Dail calling for the cuts to be withdrawn.

Mr Ennis said Bus Eireann has introduced "very questionable measures" last month that had already had a negative effect on earnings and hours of work, while services had been lost on routes.

He said workers on sick leave had returned to find their premium pay abolished for three weeks. The company has said it took this action because of a spike in sick leave in recent weeks.

Mr Ennis said new senior management team's unprecedented approach meant there had been a "complete breakdown of the industrail relations architecture" in the company and wide CIE Group.

He said it was becoming clear to Siptu members in these companies that the institutions of the state are "becoming obsolete" in resolving disputes as CIE companies are only adhering to Labour Court recommendations or agreements that they want.

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