Bus Éireann’s decision to press ahead with cuts toworkers’ overtime rates, premium pay, and annual leave entitlement looks set to leave commuters on the roadside as staff go on strike.
Last June, the company said it needed to make €9m in savings from “terms and conditions”. While it made no threat to core pay, staff said they would not accept any reduction in other areas such as premium and overtime payments.
The matter was referred to the Labour Court which made a series of recommendations designed to generate the required savings. Unions rejected those proposals and, in response, the company warned that job losses “may be unavoidable” in order to restore its financial viability.
Yesterday, Bus Éireann told its employees and trade unions that from May 12, it intends to implement the changes to terms and conditions recommended by the Labour Court.
Those measures include:
*A reduction of overtime rates from 1.5 times to 1.25 times for the first two hours of overtime, and at 1.5 times thereafter;
*An increase in the working week for clerical and executive staff from 36 to 39 hours;
*A reduction in shift payments of one sixth to one seventh;
*A cut in premium payments such as double time on Sundays to 1.5 times;
*A reduction in annual leave entitlement by three days for three years (2013, 2014, 2015).
“According to the Labour Court and the trade unions’ own independent financial assessors, Bus Éireann is in a precarious financial situation with the very viability of the company under threat,” said a company spokesman.
“According to the Labour Court, significant reductions in the company’s cost base including payroll costs are essential to ensure its future and protect employment.
“Since Jun 2012, we have engaged positively with the trade unions via the State’s industrial relations mechanisms in order to bring about the cost savings required from changes to terms and conditions.
“However, that process has now been exhausted and no savings have been achieved so we now have no option but to implement the Labour Court recommendation in order to protect the future of the company.”
He said the company wanted to remind staff and unions that “unlike the wider public sector, there is no safety net for Bus Éireann; if we do not reduce our cost base, job losses may be unavoidable”.
Michael Faherty of the National Bus and Rail Union, which represents 1,100 drivers, said it already had a mandate from members to engage in industrial action. He said if the company made any attempt to introduce the cuts, his members would not co-operate with them.
Willie Noone of Siptu said the move would force the union into a ballot for industrial action at the earliest opportunity.
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