Friday 24 November 2017

Bus Éireann facing industrial 'warfare' as pay cuts revealed

Bus Éireann acting CEO Ray Hernan Photo: Tom Burke
Bus Éireann acting CEO Ray Hernan Photo: Tom Burke

Anne-Marie Walsh

Bus Éireann is on the brink of an all-out strike after acting chief executive Ray Hernan set a date to roll out pay cuts next month.

Unions threatened industrial "warfare" after Mr Hernan said earnings will be slashed from February 20.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has been branded a "spectator" in the row amid mounting pressure for him to intervene. But he repeated that he cannot get involved in the dispute, claiming it would not be in the interests of the taxpayer or rural communities.

In a letter to staff, Mr Hernan said Sunday premium shifts will drop to 20pc, rota and shift premium payments will be axed and overtime rates reduced.

There will be a 10pc cut in allowances and sick pay benefits will be reduced. In addition, a pool of part-time and casual drivers will be set up.

Unions including the NBRU and Siptu have a mandate for industrial action if the company imposes cuts and have threatened an all-out strike.

The letter was sent as unions claimed measures already being taken - including a ban on overtime and work on rest days - are already hitting services.

In his letter, Mr Hernan warned any industrial action will result in a significant deterioration in company finances and mean even greater savings have to be found.

Read More: Bus Eireann on brink of strikes as date is set for pay cuts

He said the date of February 20 was decided "to facilitate meaningful engagement with staff representatives".

However, unions have ruled out talks on the cuts.

They have estimated they will reduce earnings by up to 30pc, although Mr Hernan claimed they will fall by 10pc on average.

He said Bus Éireann is in a critical financial crisis and losses for last year will be between €8m and €9m.

He accused unions of putting the jobs of the company's 2,600 staff at risk and said they "need to act responsibly".

"I have already informed you that we will face insolvency unless we take action to avoid placing all jobs at risk," he said. "There is no change to this position."

He said a review of "all structures" is underway and will be finished by the end of March.

The cuts are in addition to measures including a ban on overtime and working on rest days already being implemented.

Siptu said these measures have hit services including the 109 in Cavan.

On Wednesday, it said services were cancelled between Dublin and Kells; Kells and Dublin Airport and Dublin Airport to Kells.

A Bus Éireann spokesperson said more drivers than normal had reported in sick and the company was "doing its best to ensure services remain in place". She said there are 6,000 services a day and cancellations represent less than 0.1pc of these.

Irish Independent

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