Bus dispute may never be resolved, warn unions

A resolution to the Bus Éireann dispute may never be found, unions have warned, after the company suggested a number of “out-of-bounds and repulsive” cost cutting measures.

Talks between unions and the company adjourned last night after Bus Éireann put forward proposals around shutting three loss-making routes.

However, unions accused the company of striking more uncertainty and fear into employees and the suggestion of cutting routes was dubbed “disgraceful”.

The company also revealed its financial situation is even worse than was first thought, with losses for 2016 spiralling to around €9.4m.

It has warned savings of €30m must be found to keep the company afloat and has put forward a number of emergency measures.

However, as talks at the Workplace Relations Committee adjourned last night, the National Bus and Rail Union warned of major difficulty in reaching agreement.

Its general secretary, Dermot O’Leary, said: “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.”

In the talks, Bus Éireann claimed there is significant scope for savings in overtime, rotas, spare driver arrangements, hiring buses, sick pay, bonuses, expenses, and flexibility.

Management said they would save over €1m if they cut three services — 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.

Mr O’Leary said “the disgraceful suggestion” that Bus Éireann services into areas such as Clonmel, Callan, Kilkenny, Athlone, to Westport and the connection between Derry and Dublin would cease to operate, suggests that the NTA and the Department of Transport have “given the green light to replace such services with a reduced frequency, less comfortable mini-bus service, similar to that which currently operates between Portlaoise and Cashel”.

Siptu sector organised Willie Noone said the document only serves “to create more uncertainty and fear among the workforce and those communities who rely on the vital transport services our members provide”.

He added that there was uncertainly around how many staff could be let go.

“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.”

A rolling strike which was due to begin yesterday was suspended pending the outcome of the talks.

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