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Sunday 21 January 2018

Over 115,000 children face threat of school bus strike

Stock image PA
Stock image PA

Anne-Marie Walsh

Over 115,000 children and their parents face the threat of a school bus strike after a union accused Bus Éireann of threatening drivers' jobs.

Siptu may ballot the 280 drivers it represents for industrial action after a meeting where it demanded a 21pc pay rise for at the Workplace Relations Commission today.

It said the school bus drivers may be "dragged into a dispute" at the company, which already faces the threat of an all-out strike over a survival plan it is rolling out to avoid going out of business by the end of the year.

School bus drivers traditionally have not participated in industrial action at Bus Eireann, as their wages are funded by the Department of Education.

Siptu Sector Organiser Willie Noone said that Bus Eireann management indicated that workers delivering the service, who earn €12 an hour, are not worthy of a pay increase and their jobs are under threat.

The Bus Eireann school bus service ferries about a third of the schoolchildren who use school buses every day, with the remainder travelling with private firms.

"Management has requested time to reflect on our members’ claim amid the real possibility that school bus drivers will have to resort to industrial action to protect their jobs and the services they provide," said Mr Noone.

He said a "reasonable" increase in pay was discussed for the 400 school bus drivers directly employed by Bus Eireann, whose wages are paid by the Department of Education.

It is understood that unions were open to consider a wage increase closer to the 3.75pc a year pay rise achieved by workers at the Luas and Dublin Bus.

“Previously, Bus Éireann has acknowledged that the payment of school bus drivers is fully funded by the Department of Education and Skills and, as such, they have been dealt with separately for pay purposes," he said.

He said that management had clearly indicated that these services are now under threat due to the financial difficulties at the company.

Mr Noone said the company indicated that the security of employment of school bus drivers "cannot be guaranteed in circumstances where Bus Éireann as an entity does not survive".

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