Bus Éireann has warned its staff that job losses “may be unavoidable” after one of its biggest unions announced its members had overwhelmingly rejected cost-saving measures proposed by the Labour Court.
Last June, the company confirmed it was seeking €20m in savings, €9m of which it wanted to generate through changes to the terms and conditions of its staff. Its proposed savings programme was rejected by Siptu and, in December, the company said it was pressing ahead with a number of measures to cut overtime rates and shift payments, increase working hours and cut holiday entitlements.
A major strike appeared to be on the cards, but the Labour Relations Commission stepped in and an uneasy peace was brokered. The matter was referred to the Labour Court and, in February, it made a series of recommendations which still included cuts to overtime, shift payments and sick leave arrangements as well as a longer working week.
Yesterday, Siptu confirmed its members had voted by a margin of almost nine-to-one to reject the proposals.
The union’s sectoral organiser, Willie Noone, said: “Union representatives are available to recommence talks with management with the aim of preparing a new set of proposals which will be more acceptable to workers. These talks would include reference to the new propositions for change throughout the public service, which are contained in the recently-published LRC proposals for a public service agreement.”
However, Bus Éireann pointed out that even the trade unions’ own financial assessors had said the company was in a precarious financial situation, with its viability under threat.
It said: “Failure to achieve the savings outlined in the Labour Court recommendation will only worsen the company’s financial situation... The company has also consistently said that if we don’t get the savings required under this plan, then we will have no option but to make them through cuts in basic pay or reduced staff numbers.
“As we outlined recently to our employees, unlike the wider public service, there is no safety net for Bus Éireann; if we do not reduce our cost base, job losses may be unavoidable.”
The company also said industrial unrest “would only exacerbate our difficult financial position.
“Unlike those directly employed in the public and civil service that would have jobs to return to after any industrial action, our employees may not.”
The company’s other large union, the National Bus and Rail Union, has not made a formal decision on the court’s recommendation.
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