School bus withdrawal threat as staff payments are delayed
School buses that service more than 100,000 pupils a day are about to get caught up in the fallout of the Bus Éireann strike.
Customers using Dublin Bus and Irish Rail could also get caught up in the collateral damage from the dispute at the company today.
It emerged that operators are considering withdrawing from the School Transport Scheme from next week - after it was revealed Bus Éireann does not have the staff to process payments on time.
It is understood a number of operators contracted to the semi-State body have received emails or texts to say that their payment due on Friday will not be met.
Bus Éireann has insisted it doesn't expect withdrawal from the scheme, but with the majority of clerical staff on strike since last week, it does not have the manpower to process on time.
The payments are instead expected at some time next week.
However, a number of private contractors have contacted Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy with serious concerns over the delay.
"These operators have warned they are considering withdrawing from the School Transport Scheme from next Monday," Mr Troy said.
"Approximately 115,000 children rely on the School Transport Scheme. Their parents are growing increasingly concerned that the industrial action will impact on school transport services."
The funding for private operators of school buses is provided by the Department of Education.
However, the scheme is administered by Bus Éireann, whose staff are now into their sixth day of strike action.
A clarification email sent by the company yesterday said: "This is not linked to any other matter, and we want to reassure you that this is the only reason for the delay. Payments due this week will not be in the bank this Friday, but will likely be delayed until next week."
Meanwhile, there are concerns of major transport disruption today as Dublin Bus and Irish Rail workers may join a protest outside Leinster House.
A rally at 1pm could attract colleagues from the two other CIÉ companies in solidarity with the strikers, potentially causing chaos. But Irish Rail and Dublin Bus have both insisted they do not expect any disruption during the protest.
Transport Minister Shane Ross is under increasing pressure over the dispute - as the company seeks €12m in payroll cuts as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan.
The company could go bust within a fortnight as it has roughly €7m in cash reserves but is losing €500,000 a day during the strike. But Mr Ross has said he has "no business" intervening in the dispute.
In a speech to be made to the Joint Oireachtas Committee today, Mr Ross said: "We need to see management and unions agree a deal that is fair and acceptable to both sides.
"I can't agree that deal. Nor can this Committee. Only the management and unions can, as that deal will resolve those issues internal to the company and which those of us on the outside have no business dictating."