Tuesday 24 October 2017

Bus Éireann passengers face an all-out strike as company announce pay cuts

Cost-saving plans to be implemented next Monday

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Anne-Marie Walsh

Bus Éireann passengers will face an all-out strike from next Monday after Bus Éireann announced it will impose pay cuts.

In a statement this afternoon, Bus Eireann said its board had considered the "perilous state" of its finances and failure to reach agreement with unions at talks last week.

As a result, it said it had approved proposals for immediate cost savings to be implemented from March 6.

"These measures are vital to ensure that the company remains solvent, and can continue to trade as a going concern," it said.

"The company must deal with its challenges directly, and the board have a duty to ensure Bus Éireann is financially sustainable and therefore must take the necessary steps to secure this."

However, it said further dialogue aimed at urgently resolving these challenges would be welcome.

In response, the National Bus and Rail Union said they have "no option" but to strike.

General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said:

"Bus Éireann Management are determined to steer a course towards conflict by issuing ultimatums to staff, before they have had the opportunity to digest, never mind analyse the detail contained in this latest missive.

"Placing an emphasis on, as it were, parking the race to the bottom agenda for now, and replacing it with broad sweeping generalisations under insider specific language, is obviously designed to create an impression that there has been a major shift in policy, away from raiding workers’ pay packets to plug the policy induced financial gap at Expressway."

Mr O’Leary went on to say that the union has been left with "no option" but to strike.

"The fact is that by informing staff that they are going to introduce far reaching and financially impactful measures from next Monday, without agreement, Bus Éireann has left us with no option but to inform the Company that we will reactivate our previously notified strike action to coincide with the implementation of these measures."

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Willie Noone, said: “Our members are amazed at the attitude displayed by this letter which completely discounts the views of the majority of elected representatives, the public and its workforce. The letter to staff outlines an intention to proceed with a series of cuts at the company on Monday next which will automatically result in strike action by workers.

“The letter includes a threat to cut the three services connecting Dublin to Clonmel, Athlone and Westport.  It also states that the services between Dublin and Limerick and Dublin and Galway will be greatly reduced.

“The measures concerning changes to the conditions of employment of workers are notable in that they target driver grades, in particular. In contrast, it would seem that the company does not see any role to be played by managerial grades in this cost cutting exercise. Issues such as the sub-contracting of services and the redeployment of staff, which are stated without any detail on how they will be implemented, will not be accepted.”

The board meeting was held following the collapse of talks with unions last week to end a dispute over the company's plan to achieve the savings.

It had originally planned to roll out cuts that included the axing of shift payments and a 10pc cut in allowances on Monday last week but deferred this to enter negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Acting Bus Eireann Chief Executive Ray Hernan has warned the company could be insolvent sometime in May if the payroll savings were not implemented as part of a €30m survival plan he wants to present to the board next month.

In a recent document, the company explained that it needs €30m cuts to compensate for losses within its Expressway service and to generate a profit to re-invest in approximately 10 new vehicles a year.

"The achievement of a solvency level of saving is a very short-term solution and if the issue of competitiveness is not addressed then we will be back again within the year with another financial crisis to deal with," it said.

Bus Eireann lost €9.4m last year and losses for last month are already over €1.5m.

The document sent to staff recently said the uncertainty about further services was already resulting in customers making alternative arrangements.

"If we exit the market, even for a short period, competitors will take advantage and Bus Éireann will suffer more which will invariably result in further loss of business," it said.

The company has also confirmed the dates for the closure of three routes and revealed other services will be cut next month.

X7 Dublin - Clonmel will close on March 12

21 Athlone - Westport will be axed on April 16 and the 33 Dublin - Derry will shut down on May 28.

Bus Eireann also said the number of daily services on Dublin- Limerick(X12), and Dublin – Galway(20/X20) will be reduced from March 12.

Staff affected by these closures will be redeployed.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross released a statement urging the employer and employees "to engage urgently in a constructive manner".

"This is necessary to resolve this difficult industrial relations situation, which threatens to greatly inconvenience the travelling public, especially those in rural Ireland."

Meanwhile Irish Rural Link 9IRL), the national network representing the interest of rural communities, have raised concerns over the announcement.

They said thousands of people living in rural areas, which IRL represent, will be adversely affected by these strikes. The statement said people rely on these services for employment; attend hospital appointments and other appointments and for leisure.

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