The National Bus & Rail Union is to ballot its members at Bus Éireann for industrial action, it was announced today.
The move is in reaction to proposed changes to Bus Éireann’s Expressway service.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said: "Trade Union representatives attended at the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] today in order to begin discussions on a long overdue pay rise for staff at Bus Éireann after eight years of pay stagnation.
“The company not alone indicated that it would not be in a position to contemplate any pay rises but also dropped an industrial relations bombshell in relation to the future of the Expressway service, threatening the livelihoods of 800 Bus Éireann workers.
“The NBRU will not tolerate the imposition of a Low Wage Bus Transport Service as a solution to a problem which has directly resulted from Department policy.”
"The current Dublin Bus Dispute and this crisis at Bus Éireann are not unconnected, there are huge question marks over the Department of Transport and its stewardship of the State owned public transport services, cutting off vital financial support and overseeing a licencing regime which has now led to the potential decimation of an Expressway Service that connects into every nook and cranny in rural Ireland.
“It is now time for politicians from across all parties and none to step up to the plate on behalf of the communities they purport to represent.
“The Irish electorate can be extremely unforgiven [sic] to those they elect who fail to protect vital social services."
Bus Éireann responded to the statement by insisting that it cannot afford to offer a pay increase for staff.
The company stated that it has incurred a €5.6m loss in 2015 and is forecasting a similar loss for 2016, mainly due to losses on commercial Expressway services.
“Expressway must now be positioned to compete more intensively in a low margin market,” the Bus Éireann statement read.
“Any further increase to our costs, increases the risk for all employees, so the business must urgently address its losses to survive.
“In 2016 the financial position has worsened due to a number of factors, including increased competition by low-cost operators on commercial routes.
“The business requires immediate cost savings of €7m and our existing commercial Expressway services - which are not State-subsidised – need to generate an annual profit to survive.
“These cost savings must be achieved internally and not through any cuts to service which would impact our customers.
“Management have prepared a plan to transform and restructure Expressway into a sustainable business as part of an overall strategic plan for the company.
“We need to introduce a new competitive model with a new structure and reduced costs.
“While this is a major challenge for all employees at Bus Éireann – who we recognise as fully committed to the company – our plan needs to address the urgent financial challenges facing the business.
“It is imperative that talks with unions continue, on the substantive issues of the financial crisis facing Bus Éireann.”