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Saturday 24 February 2018

Bus strike still in the balance as talks reach critical stage

Litter-picking claims an insult: NBRU chief Dermot O’Leary. Photo: Tony Gavin
Litter-picking claims an insult: NBRU chief Dermot O’Leary. Photo: Tony Gavin

Anne Marie Walsh

Bus Éireann passengers were in the dark last night about whether an all-out strike will be called off as last-ditch talks reached a critical juncture.

Talks continued at the Workplace Relations Commission in a bid to end the dispute as the company attempts to stave off insolvency by slashing its payroll costs by €12m.

It is estimated that the centrepiece of proposals being discussed - a voluntary redundancy scheme - could cost at least €24m.

Hopes were high earlier in the day that agreement could be reached, but sources at the talks were not as optimistic as the day wore on.

Sources said progress was slow and mediators were making intense efforts to get the parties to sign off on proposals for the exit scheme and roll out of new pay rates.

Read more: Confusion and frustration among commuters as Bus Eireann strikes enter 18th day

In a tweet, general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union Dermot O'Leary said talks were at a "critical juncture" and all stakeholders - including Transport Minister Shane Ross - are needed to reach a "definitive and sustainable solution".

He described talk about the fact that drivers would have to "litter-pick" on buses under proposals tabled on social media platforms as "insulting" to drivers.

"There are far more fundamental issues at play here," he said.

If there is no resolution at the talks - the third attempt by the State mediation body to broker an agreement between unions and management - the Labour Court may intervene.

Under industrial relations legislation, it can call in the parties for a hearing if the dispute is in the national interest.

Bus drivers are losing an average of almost €898 a week as the strike continues, while Bus Éireann has lost €9m during the 18-day strike. Acting chief executive Ray Hernan has warned the company faces insolvency next month and industrial action will hasten this.

Irish Independent

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