Union boss denies Ross is issue as bus unions reveal plan
The stay on Bus Éireann's industrial dispute may have averted all-out strike action today, but the row looks set to rumble on as unions reveal their long-term game plan.
Unions and Bus Éireann agreed to begin talks in the Work Place Relation Committee today with several points of contention up for discussion.
The National Bus and Railworkers' Union has revealed its four-point plan - 'SOBS'.
The first point, titled 'Sectoral Employment Order/No Race to Bottom in regard to Worker Terms and Conditions', will combat certain employee pay cuts. This comes as Bus Éireann's CEO Ray Hernan said it would need to introduce €12m in payroll cuts as part of a €30m cost-cutting plan for the company. He has said the company faces insolvency by May.
Workers say they will lose up to 30pc of pay, while Bus Éireann says the average pay reduction will be closer to 10pc.
They will also "oppose the diminution of rural bus services".
Bus Éireann announced it would be axing certain underperforming rural routes. During the talks, the threatened closure of three routes will be suspended.
It will define a timeframe for a "series of intensive industrial relations negotiations".
This comes as private bus operators call for "equal and open tendering" for the private sector on all public transport bus routes.
The Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) represents 2,500 people in the private coach sector.
"An overall review should include an input from all stakeholders - private operators, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus and the relevant statutory bodies - to form a cohesive and viable plan," national director Kevin Traynor said.
Meanwhile, Siptu leader Jack O'Connor has denied that his union's threat of a strike had anything to do with his historically difficult relationship with Transport Minister Shane Ross.
In the past, he and the minister have rarely seen eye to eye, with Mr Ross referring to him as a "bearded wonder" and "waffler", and calling for his resignation. Mr O'Connor, on the other hand, has said they only agree on the world being round.
When asked if their history has anything to do with the current debacle, he said: "That is of absolutely no consequence, no importance whatsoever.
"Individuals, either he or I or anyone else, are of no consequence, except in so far as they are in a position to act in a positive manner.
"This is the first comment I've made publicly on the situation. It's (the dispute) being handled by Greg Ennis and actually I've avoided commentary partly because it might be suggested there was some relationship between what I might be saying and things that Shane Ross has said and done to me over the years."
Speaking ahead of the announcement of talks today, he said he was unsure how much "scope" Mr Ross has within Government. He said he did not know whether it was the case that he was acting to bring about the biggest crisis in public transport in living memory, or not receiving the necessary scope within Government to "do the things that can and should be done".
When asked what they were, he said it was ultimately the issue that the subsidy required to maintain a viable public transport infrastructure had to be addressed.