The board of Bus Éireann has opened the door to go back into talks with unions to address its "perilous" finances as it makes a desperate bid to avoid an all-out strike.
Sources revealed that further route and depots closures were discussed, if the company could not draw up a survival plan with unions to be signed off on March 27. The meeting was called following two failed attempts to reach agreement on a plan to reduce its payroll by €12m at the Workplace Relations Commission.
In a statement, Bus Éireann said management outlined a number of cost-saving options that could be urgently implemented at a meeting yesterday.
It said before implementing these, it sought written clarification from unions on their position. "Subject to this clarification, there may be an opportunity to re-engage in time-limited talks," it said.
Acting chief executive Ray Hernan has warned that the company could go bust in May after suffering losses of €9m last year, and €1.5m in January. It is understood a major stumbling block at the last set of talks was the company's attempt to reduce its €13m annual overtime bill, equalling a 10th of payroll.
Unions claimed this would affect workers on 48-hour weeks with guaranteed overtime, more than those on 39-hour weeks with ad-hoc overtime.
Transport Minister Shane Ross said he hoped the board's statement could "provide a basis for realistic negotiations between both parties on the company's future".