Monday 23 October 2017

Bus Éireann reject claims of intention to ask Transport Minister 'for cash'

It is expected there will be significant reductions 'in all categories' of staff but the job losses will take place over a period of time when funds are available. Stock Image
It is expected there will be significant reductions 'in all categories' of staff but the job losses will take place over a period of time when funds are available. Stock Image

Anne-Marie Walsh

ONE of the main unions at Bus Éireann has said that talks to avert an all-out strike are at a critical stage but progress is possible.

Siptu is giving a more positive assessment of discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission than it was yesterday.

This is the third day of talks in a bid to resolve a dispute over the company's threat to impose €12m of cuts to earnings as it faces insolvency before the end of the year.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Willie Noone, said the union believes that Bus Éireann has "come around to our position".

He said this was that the public will not accept a low wage and low service model for public transport.

“Our members play an invaluable role serving rural communities," he said.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

"The public transport services currently provided by Bus Éireann must continue and if workers are required to make efficiencies and changes, then they must be duly rewarded for it.”

He said progress can only be made if members do not have to endure cuts to pay or their terms and conditions of employment.

Meanwhile, the National Bus and Railworkers Union has said unions will be open to discussing potential "efficiencies" at Bus Éireann at talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.

General Secretary Dermot O'Leary called on the Department of Transport and National Transport Authority to support the talks to ensure the issue does not drift into a "catastrophic" transport dispute.

He said that support could be through extra resources for vital services in towns and villages served by the company or an adequately funded free travel scheme.

"It is simply not good enough that the Minister for Transport, as he recently suggested, would tell the people of rural Ireland that their future services will be less frequent and less comfortable than that which they currently enjoy," he said. 

Document

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann have rejected claims they are expected to ask Transport Minister Shane Ross to fund a voluntary redundancy scheme after the company sent a document to staff detailing €30m of cuts.

A new document circulated at talks, and seen by the Irish Independent, reveals 120 job losses may be on the cards. The document lists plans to shed 60 managerial, executive and clerical roles, 40 engineering and maintenance jobs and 20 inspectors positions.

However, it does not detail how many drivers should go.

According to the document, it says circumstances must be created to achieve a voluntary redundancy scheme and it says the shareholder "must fund it".

"The more people we can let go, the more the saving," it reads.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has repeatedly said he will not open the state chequebook to resolve the company's financial difficulties.

Sources claimed the document was drawn up by the company, but it denies this.

A Bus Eireann spokesperson said; "‘Bus Éireann have due regard to the current WRC process, and have no comment while this is ongoing."

The document is entitled 'general issue to be discussed to identify gap remaining and assess likelihood of settlement'.

It says the Dundalk depot with nine staff and one other depot should close. A new role to replace inspectors would be created, with wages of €50,000 for a 39-hour week. There would be compulsory redeployment of drivers up to 50kms.

There would be less overtime and a 10pc cut in allowances including meal, overnight, car, tool and first aid payments.

A separate document sent to staff yesterday states that routes may be axed, and there will be an unspecified number of job losses, and a reduction in earnings. It also says a voluntary redundancy scheme will be rolled out as funding allows.

The document states that the X7 Dublin to Clonmel route, which was changed from Cork to Dublin, to Clonmel to Dublin in June 2015, has continued to be loss-making.

The document said the 021 Athlone to Westport route has made losses for a number of years and no timetable changes can be implemented to improve its performance.

In addition, the 833 Dublin to Derry route has been loss-making for a number of years with no signs of improvement. "Management recommends closing this route," the document said.

It said the closure of these routes would save €1.1m, although it said there are no plans "at present" to close any routes.

The 'discussion document' said the company is going out of business and will be insolvent before the end of the year.

It lists a number of measures to save €30m, which it said are needed for the loss within Expressway to be eliminated and to generate a profit so it can reinvest in around 10 new vehicles for the fleet each year.

The document said the current estimate is that there was a €9.4m operating loss last year, while losses for January this year are already in excess of €1.5m.

It said there are 1,378 drivers who work overtime each day which equals the cost of 1,636 drivers. It said if the company was to maximise driver efficiency, there would be a requirement for 986 full-time drivers.

It revealed the title of 'inspector' will be eliminated and a new role introduced to cover managerial and decision-making needs, with fewer jobs available.

The document was sent with a letter from acting chief executive Ray Hernan who said "productivity and efficiencies" are not where they need to be for Bus Éireann to remain viable.

Siptu and the NBRU reacted angrily to the document.

Irish Independent

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