Trade unions say State ‘cannot walk away’ as Expressway closure recommended

Trade unions said the Department of Transport could not walk away from the crisis at Bus Éireann, after a consultant’s report suggested as many as 500 jobs were under threat due to its poor financial position.

Trade unions say State ‘cannot walk away’ as Expressway closure recommended

A report by consultants Grant Thornton, which was commissioned by the state-owned company, recommended that Bus Éireann shut down its loss-making Expressway service, claiming it may be the most viable option given there were “limited strategic reasons” for the State to own a commercial bus business.

However, such a move would result in the closure of 10 depots with the loss of 516 jobs,

The company has been making heavy losses in recent years and the projected figure for this year is expected to top €7m.

Siptu promptly called for immediate action by elected representatives to support the public bus network and its staff, with sector organiser, Willie Noone, claiming it was “disgraceful” the contents of this report were being widely commented on while unions had not been presented with any details.

“The financial difficulties experienced by the company due to its underfunding by the State are well-known,” Mr Noone said.

“The reality is that there has been a strategy of creating a financial crisis at the company with the objective of manufacturing a case for the dismantling of Bus Éireann, driving down workers’ conditions and reducing services.”

Pledging to fight what he called the “outrageous proposals”, Mr Noone added: “It is ludicrous that any credence would be given to proposals that involve using public funds to cut services, eradicate jobs, drive down safety and service standards and empower private businesses to attain monopoly status in a sector of our transport services.”

Dermot O’Leary, of the National Bus and Rail Union, said Transport Minister Shane Ross and his department had no option but to get involved.

“The department had a role in this from the start — it can’t walk away from it now. I think there is a very clear attempt to distance the department from this debacle. The NBRU will not allow that to happen.”

The Grant Thornton report warns redundancy costs at the company could potentially top €85m, with some senior employees in line for pay-offs of over €500,000, but Mr O’Leary queried those figures and said it would be interesting to see how some government TDs would respond if any moves were made to dismantle the company’s network.

In a statement last night, Bus Éireann acting chief executive Ray Hernan said the company is facing insolvency in the next 18 months, and decisive actions need to be taken to reverse losses.

He told staff forecasted losses for 2016 are now estimated at €8m, and that “collectively, we cannot allow this trend to continue.”

However, he stated that Expressway will continue to be a part of Bus Éireann.

Elsewhere, Tim Gaston, director of public transport services at the National Transport Authority, said any suggestions that decisions made by the authority in granting commercial licences to bus operators had been to blame for the difficulties being experienced by Bus Éireann “simply do not stand up to scrutiny”.

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