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Saturday 16 December 2017

Bus strike postponed as company defers pay cuts

Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, centre, accompanied by national executive members Sean Thunder, left, and Michael Kenefnic, arriving for the Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, centre, accompanied by national executive members Sean Thunder, left, and Michael Kenefnic, arriving for the Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

Anne-Marie Walsh and Luke Byrne

Bus passengers can breathe a sigh of relief after unions agreed to postpone an all-out indefinite strike which was due to begin on Monday.

Bus Éireann's trade union group agreed to call off industrial action after the company said it would defer the imposition of pay cuts.

But a resolution to the dispute still remains a long way off as the company is ultimately seeking €12m in payroll cuts as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan.

Management has warned that it must present this plan to its board next month.

Speaking after the talks broke for the night at the Work Place Relations Commission (WRC), the general secretary of the National Bus and Railway Workers' Union Dermot O'Leary said the threat of a strike was not gone.

Further talks have been lined up at the WRC for tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday .

However, it means that instead of strike action, Bus Éireann services will run as normal on Monday.

The unions released a statement last night saying "we remain of the view that a multi-stakeholder involvement will ultimately be required to resolve this dispute".

"In deference to the WRC, we are prepared to engage in this process to establish if we can achieve some progress towards an overarching and sustainable resolution."

The threat of industrial action at Dublin Bus has also lifted.

Unions have dropped plans to ballot their members for industrial action after Dublin Bus agreed to honour a deal to count new pay rises towards its workers' pensions.

Earlier the main unions Siptu and the National Bus and Railworkers Union had warned that train services in at least five areas would be under threat if the bus strike went ahead.

Mr O'Leary said it would not be "rocket science" to work out that if there was a picket on a gate and no-one passed it, a train would not move from that location.

"Even though we in the trade union group are not in dispute with Iarnród Éireann, 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,"he told an Oireachtas Committee.

Siptu divisional organiser Greg Ennis had also earlier told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport that strike action was "very much avoidable" if the company changes its decision to unilaterally cut members' pay and terms and conditions.

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".

Bus Éireann's 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.

Irish Independent

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