Saturday 24 March 2018

All-out indefinite Bus Éireann strike due to begin on Monday is deferred

An industrial relations troubleshooting body had been working behind the scenes in a bid to avert the all-out strike at Bus Éireann. (Stock picture)
An industrial relations troubleshooting body had been working behind the scenes in a bid to avert the all-out strike at Bus Éireann. (Stock picture)

Anne Marie Walsh

AN all-out indefinite strike at Bus Éireann that was due to begin on Monday has been deferred.

Unions and the company have accepted an invitation to talks on the financial crisis facing the company.

Officials from the Workplace Relations Commission had been working behind the scenes in an eleventh hour bid to avert the industrial action that would affect 110,000 passengers a day.

Bus Éireann's Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan wants to roll out €12m payroll cuts as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan he wants to present to the board by the end of this month.

The National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) had warned that the public faced the "mother of all transport disputes" and there were fears that unofficial action would spread through the other CIE companies.

General Secretary, Dermot O'Leary, said the union had deferred its planned strike as the company had also agreed it would not impose payroll cuts on Monday.

“We will of course endeavour, on behalf of commuters and our members, to work towards resolving this crisis," he said.

"However, the attitude displayed by Bus Éireann management to-date has left us with no option but to advise our members that they should remain on a war-footing... should the company plough ahead with its Irish Ferries-style attack on bus workers' moderate terms and conditions.”

Mr O'Leary said while his union accepted the invitation to discuss Expressway's €9m losses, it believes a resolution can only be found if all stakeholders, including the Department of Transport and National Transport Authority, are party to an agreement.

"Furthermore we will be informing Bus Éireann that the NBRU will not allow our willingness to assist in trying to resolve this crisis be used as a fig leaf behind which those with political responsibility can hide, from the disgraceful decision to close vital Bus Eireann routes from Clonmel to Dublin, Athlone to Westport and Dublin to Derry.”

The other main Bus Éireann union, Siptu, said it had accepted the invitation to talks on Monday.

Siptu Sector Organiser, Willie Noone, said it had always been apparent that the expertise of the Workplace Relations Commission would be required to deal with the serious and complex issues in the dispute.

“SIPTU representatives will continue to play their part in trying to avert a national public transport dispute but we rely on the management of Bus Éireann making genuine efforts to reach a resolution," he said.

Bus Éireann warned that its financial situation remains critical as the company faces insolvency in May.

In a statement, it said management has accepted the commission's invitation to "facilitate meaningful discussions" with unions.

"We will therefore defer the implementation of changes announced in our recent letter to staff, due to commence on Monday, while talks continue," it said.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said: “I welcome the news that Monday’s proposed bus strike has been called off. I would like to thank both employer and employees involved in this dispute for accepting an invitation from the Workplace Relations Commission to return to talks.

"I am sure the travelling public will be relieved that Bus Éireann services will be available to them on Monday.”

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