Warning of all-out bus strike in pay row
The 'nuclear option' of countrywide strike action is increasingly likely if Bus Eireann presses ahead with drastic cuts to workers' pay, union chiefs have warned.
Employees at the company face reductions in their take home pay from February 20.
Sunday premium shifts are set to drop to 20pc, rota and shift premium allowances will be axed and overtime rates reduced. There will be a 10pc cut in allowances and sick pay benefits will also fall.
Unions estimate the cuts will reduce earnings by up to 30pc; the company claims they will fall by 10pc on average.
Acting chief executive Ray Hernan insists Bus Eireann is in a dire financial situation, with losses for last year coming in at between €8m and €9m.
However, unions including the NBRU and Siptu have warned that they have a mandate for industrial action which could be used if the company refuses to capitulate.
National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O'Leary said the longer the "crisis" continued the greater the chance of an all-out strike.
"There's going to industrial action, there's absolutely no doubt about that," he said.
"We will be under pressure from our members to engage in an all-out strike the longer the dispute goes on. I see this as an attack on all workers."
Union sources said that while there would be a reluctance to impact on services in rural Ireland, the option of an "all-out strike remains very much there".
Mr O'Leary said the issue of work to rule would form part of upcoming discussions, but such an option at this juncture was "unlikely".
Transport Minister Shane Ross has been branded a "spectator" because of his failure to intervene in the dispute.
Despite mounting pressure to act, he insists he cannot get involved in the stand-off, claiming it would not be in the best interests of the taxpayer or rural communities.
Mr O'Leary accused Mr Ross of using "standard bog answers" for his failure to intervene.