Tuesday 12 December 2017

Threat of major Bus Eireann strike increases

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

THE threat of a disruptive strike at Bus Eireann has deepened after another 1,000 staff backed industrial action by an overwhelming majority today.

SIPTU members have voted by 91pc to take strike action from next Thursday if the company imposes cuts in premium pay, annual leave, overtime, and other work practices from Sunday.

However, the other main union at the bus operator - the National Bus and Rail Union - has warned its members may down tools this Sunday.

This would mean they would defy the legal requirement that they give seven days notice of industrial action.

It is unclear how SIPTU will deal with the cuts when they are imposed on Sunday.

The union said the strike action will affect Bus Eireann services countrywide from Thursday 17 January and could spread to other companies in the CIE group.

It said members voted for strike action rather than for what was considered to be less effective industrial action “due to the seriousness of the issues at stake”.

“Our members have always been willing to change working conditions and practices within reason but are not prepared to have changes unilaterally imposed on them,” said organiser Willie Noone.

“This decision is a direct response to the threat by management to dictate change and cut the pay of our members.”

Bus Eireann revealed its financial crisis last June with proposals for a massive cost-cutting plan including cuts to overtime and shift rates, premium and expense payments and annual leave, and increasing the working week.

A spokesman reiterated its view that a strike would deepen the company's financial difficulties.

"All it would achieve would be to worsen our financial situation, which would then require us to seek even further savings in the area of terms and conditions," he said.

Bus Eireann called on unions to adhere to an in-house agreement for 30 days notice of strike.

The cost-cutting plan includes reducing overtime rates from 1.5-1.25 times; the working week for clerical and executive staff moving from 36 to 39 hours; reducing annual leave by three days this year and in 2014 and 2015; and a one-third cut in other allowances and expenses.

The company has around 2,500 staff, with about two-thirds employed as drivers.

Talks to avert a Bus Eireann strike have adjourned until 5pm today.

Sources said the negotiations had been “constructive” and revised proposals on €9m payroll cuts are likely to be presented to unions.

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