LATEST: NBRU say Bus Éireann plan is 'repulsive' to workers

Latest: The National Bus and Rail Union says a plan put forward by Bus Éireann management is "repulsive" to its members.

  • 833 Dublin to Derry, X7 Dublin to Clonmel and 021 Athlone to Westport routes under threat.
  • Losses for 2016 estimated at €9.4m.
  • Unions warn threat of strike remains in place.
  • Company describe average salary of €45,000 as ‘excessive’.

Update 9.20pm: The National Bus and Rail Union says a plan put forward by Bus Éireann management is "repulsive" to its members.

Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission have adjourned until tomorrow.

But the NBRU says the union will have major difficulty reaching agreement, after the company submitted its cost cutting plans.

Dermot O'Leary of the NBRU says management's discussion document in relation to Expressway is not acceptable: “Bus Éireann management have made the task of achieving a resolution to the Expressway crisis even more difficult as a result of the so-called discussion document it issued today.

“Quite a significant number of the items outlined in Company agenda are frankly out of bounds and repulsive to our members, inclusive of reductions in core rates, zero hours contracts, job losses and the casualisation of permanent jobs within the Semi-state sector.”

Update 6.45pm: Union chiefs have accused Bus Éireann of striking more uncertainty and fear into workers after proposing shutting three loss-making routes.

In a management document issued as talks continued on a €30m cost-cutting plan, the company suggested there is significant scope for savings in overtime, rotas, spare driver arrangements, hiring buses, sick pay, bonuses, expenses and flexibility.

Bus Éireann said they would save more than €1m if they pulled the 833 Dublin to Derry, the X7 Dublin to Clonmel and the 021 Athlone to Westport.

Other routes could be kept but the frequency of services stripped back as the company revealed losses of €9.4m for last year and €1.5m for January alone.

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said: "It only serves to create more uncertainty and fear among the workforce and those communities who rely on the vital transport services our members provide."

Mr Noone said there is no indication how many staff the company envisages keeping on.

"Siptu representatives remain resolute in our mission to protect public transport services in rural communities and will resist attempts by management to reduce our members' pay and conditions of employment," he said.

The negotiations got under way after unions suspended an all-out indefinite strike by drivers, back office staff and other employees due. The threat remains in place, unions have warned as the potential for 30% pay cuts remains to meet the huge losses.

Update 6.10pm: Bus Éireann have identified three routes it could shut down after it suffered €9.4m losses last year.

Union chiefs accused the company of playing Russian roulette with staff after circulating a document listing potential cuts on the road and to wages and benefits as it aims to save €30m and stop it going bust.

As talks opened in front of state mediators, Bus Éireann said they would save more than €1m euro if they pulled the 833 Dublin to Derry, the X7 Dublin to Clonmel and the 021 Athlone to Westport.

The company document also suggested there is significant scope for savings in overtime, rotas, spare driver arrangements, hiring buses, sick pay, bonuses, expenses and flexibility.

Dermot O'Leary, National Bus and Rail Union general secretary, said it was an insult.

"It's absolutely appalling that management at Bus Eireann are playing Russian roulette with its own staff and the public transport system by deliberately provoking staff into bringing the entire transport system to a halt, ignoring long-standing negotiating practices," he said.

Mr O'Leary said Bus Éireann management were showing a lack of regard for the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which is facilitating the talks.

The negotiations got under way after unions suspended an all-out indefinite strike by drivers, back office staff and other employees due. The threat remains in place, unions have warned.

Unions representing 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann insist they will fight any pay cuts in a potential 30 million euro cost-cutting plan, claiming the situation is not a typical industrial relations dispute and was not caused by them.

Siptu's Willie Noone said there were concerns the company is intent on collapsing the talks.

"The company accepted on Friday (February 17) that our union is not going to agree with workers' pay and conditions being driven down to the floor," he said.

These talks must proceed with the acceptance by management that SIPTU representatives are not going to assist in any way in the creation of a low-wage, low-service form of public bus transport that will not meet the needs of the travelling public, particularly in rural Ireland."

Wage reductions of up to 30% have been suggested amid Bus Eireann's losses of €9.4m for last year.

The company document said last year's losses had been forecast to be €6.8m, but swelled by almost €3m due to third party claims, declining revenue, bus hire issues, overtime and absenteeism.

It said there are too many clerical staff - 60 managers, 58 at executive grade level and 220 other staff - and that the average salary of €45,000 is "excessive and cannot be justified".

It suggested a number of depots or garages will be closed and maintenance should be done at night.

It warned workers are not automatically entitled to overtime and proposed cutting Sunday premium payment from 100% to 20%.

It said expenses should be cut by 10% and wage increments should be stopped from March.

A spokeswoman for Bus Éireann said: "Bus Éireann have due regard to the current WRC process and have no comment while this is ongoing."

Update 2.50pm: Unions at Bus Éireann are accusing the company of trying to collapse today's talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.

It follows the circulation of what the unions are calling a 'provocative' document to members of staff.

General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said: “It’s absolutely appalling that Management at Bus Éireann are playing Russian roulette with its own staff and the public transport system, by deliberately provoking staff into bringing the entire transport system to a halt, ignoring long standing negotiating practices and issuing so-called discussion documents to the entire workforce in advance of WRC facilitated discussions.”

Bus Éireann workers were due to walk off the job today - but the action was postponed to allow for today's negotiations.

But SIPTU Sector Organiser, Willie Noone, is warning that the process is already in danger.

“A lot of things are put up on the table and then you discuss them and go through them - and then some things will fall off the table and you may make progress on others.

“But to actually put up a huge document, which is very provocative, showed to us quite clearly that the company are intent on collapsing these talks.”

Earlier: Trade unions have accused Bus Éireann chiefs of trying to slash wages to set the company up to compete with private operators.

As two days of talks opened on a potential €30m cost-cutting plan, Dermot O'Leary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned he was not optimistic for a deal.

The threat of an all-out indefinite strike by drivers, back office staff and other employees hangs over the company as management meet unions at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Unions representing 2,600 staff at Bus Éireann insist they will fight any pay cuts, claiming the situation is not a typical industrial relations dispute and was not caused by them.

Wage reductions of up to 30% have been suggested amid losses of up to €9m for last year.

NBRU general secretary Mr O'Leary said: "I haven't been optimistic. But if there are €9m in losses we are prepared to discuss that and see what we can do."

Mr O'Leary repeated calls for Department of Transport officials and the National Transport Authority to take part in talks as decisions to license private operators have severely hit Bus Éireann's Expressway business.

The union chief also claimed huge pay cuts and other proposed cost-saving measures are more about positioning the company to compete on busy routes with lower cost operators over the next 10 years.

Ray Hernan, Bus Éireann's acting chief executive, has said the company will be insolvent by the end of this year unless an emergency survival plan is urgently implemented

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), which includes mostly admin staff on lower wages, said there is a will among staff to get a resolution.

"Bus Éireann's service forms the backbone of Ireland's transport network. The will to save it is there from the company's passengers and staff and unions. We now need Transport Minister Shane Ross to do the same," he said.


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