School bus drivers want 21pc hike as strike a step closer
Unions at Bus Éireann will demand a 21pc pay rise for 400 school bus drivers at talks this morning.
Siptu and the Nbru are due to attend the Workplace Relations Commission on behalf of the drivers, whose wages are funded by the Department of Education. It is unclear how the company will deal with the claim after ruling out the same pay rise for other staff.
However, unions will argue that the school bus drivers' wages are fully funded and it is understood that they are not included in a drastic cost-cutting plan that unions estimate will reduce earnings for other workers by up to 30pc.
The school bus drivers' pay claim may pose another major problem for the company after its strategy of seeking a Labour Court intervention in a dispute with unions over cuts that are part of its survival plan was ruled out last night.
The threat of industrial action is looming larger as the company faces the possibility of insolvency by the middle of next year, with the loss of 2,600 jobs.
Leaving a meeting at the court, unions said the court confirmed it would not reinvigorate a process that begun last month after unions lodged a claim for a pay rise. They said the court has no role in the current dispute over cuts as talks had not been held at the Workplace Relations Commission, which would be normal procedure.
They accused the company of trying to circumvent normal industrial relations practice by going directly to the court in a bid to fast-track its cost-cutting plan. The Nbru and Siptu said they will not engage in talks until the company withdraws its cost-cutting plan. Unions have threatened an all-out strike if management imposes the cuts.
Earlier yesterday, Bus Éireann said it would ask the court to intervene after unions refused to attend talks on the cuts, which include reductions in premium payments and allowances. It said it was a "very regrettable situation" that unions had not turned up for a meeting they were invited to at Broadstone in Dublin.
Acting chief executive Ray Hernan recently revealed that cuts would include the axing of shift payments, reductions in Sunday premiums, and cuts in allowances.
Redundancies are also expected and the company has not ruled out compulsory job losses.
Mr Hernan has said that management and support grades will be "streamlined" and clerical staff are overpaid.
The company said the court had accepted it could not deal with a pay claim last month until it had produced a more detailed plan. It said it had now given these details to unions in an attempt to deal with the wage claim in the context of the "urgent financial crisis" it faces.
Mr Hernan is expected to tell a Dáil committee today that all 2,600 jobs are at risk because the company faces insolvency in 18 months.