Saturday 21 September 2019

Strike fears at Bus Éireann as it says its operation is 'under threat'

Dermot O'Leary
Dermot O'Leary

Anne-Marie Walsh

Bus Éireann faces the threat of new strikes as unions demand a pay rise of almost 4pc at talks today following a "year from hell".

A union leader last night warned that industrial action is coming down the track unless it rewards its 2,500 staff following a series of cuts.

General Secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O'Leary's warning came as the company revealed the whole operation is under threat "on a number of fronts".

In a letter to unions, Bus Éireann's acting chief human resources officer Ken Bryan said its financial position was giving "serious cause for concern".

He said the company was shouldering a large accumulated deficit and could not see how it could afford a pay rise, although it was willing to "examine the matter".

Sources revealed that unions want a pay rise of at least 3.75pc a year.

Passengers endured a three-week all-out strike in April last year after unions demanded a pay rise - but management proposed cuts to wages and conditions. Staff later accepted a Labour Court compromise that included 200 job cuts, reductions in earnings and changes to work practices.

"Those that led the assault on our members should now stand aside and allow the company to reward its hard-working staff without the requirement to engage in service-disrupting industrial action," said Mr O'Leary.

He said the union was "adamant" that a pay rise for "long suffering" staff was overdue.

"This group of workers have endured a year from hell in having to stand up against a politically-motivated attack on the very fabric of the company that they and generations of bus workers helped to build."

The pay claim, lodged last month, did not specify the wage demand that would be sought.

But it noted that Dublin Bus staff got 3.75pc a year over three years, while an Irish Rail deal gave 2.5pc over three years, with an extra 1pc for drivers.

It said wage hikes in the region of 3pc-plus a year were being given across the economy and a 6pc increase due under the last social partnership deal was unpaid.

Meanwhile, Mr Bryan said there was an unprecedented rise in absenteeism this year. He said there was also a sharp rise in the hiring of private bus operators to provide cover on services.

"Revenue on a number of our bus services is down considerably on previous years and Bus Éireann's operation is under threat on a number of fronts, notwithstanding the loss of a number of routes in the Greater Dublin region by tender," he said.

A Bus Éireann spokeswoman said it had been notified of the pay claim but no details were provided. She said the Labour Court agreement of April last year allowed for a review after 12 months. This led to today's meeting.

"Bus Éireann is still on very fragile financial footing and our focus is on growth and an upcoming expansion of services," she said. When asked for details of the deficit, she said this would not be released until the company published its annual report in a few weeks.

Irish Independent

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