While accepting the Workplace Relations Commission invitation to talks, unions and management remained firm in their positions on the cost-saving measures sought by the company.
Bus Éireann has agreed to defer the raft of cuts to its paybill which were due to kick in from Monday, while the talks take place. The announcement of those cost-savings earlier this week had prompted Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) to announce indefinite strike action, which has now also been put off to facilitate the talks.
The company said its financial situation remains critical and that it faces insolvency by May. As well as staffing arrangements, the deferral applies to closures that were to happen between tomorrow week and late May, of services linking Dublin to Clonmel and Derry, and Athlone-Westmeath, and reductions to Dublin-Limerick and Dublin-Galway services from March 12.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the strike suspension was decided in deference to the WRC, to coincide with the management decision not to implement the measures. He cautioned his members at Bus Éireann to be on standby for work stoppages if talks fail or the employer proceeds with unagreed changes.
“The attitude displayed by Bus Éireann management to date has left us with no option but to advise our members that they should remain on a war footing and be prepared to engage in an immediate all-out strike,” said Mr O’Leary.
Siptu’s Willie Noone said representatives would continue to play their part in trying to avert a national public transport dispute. But, he said, they rely on Bus Éireann management making genuine efforts to reach a resolution.
Meanwhile, CSO figures show that two one-day strikes by secondary teachers last term helped to make 2016 the worst year for industrial disputes since 2009.
The 54,562 days lost in two education sector disputes accounted for just over three-quarters of the 71,647 days lost last year to industrial disputes. The total was more than double the 33,000 days lost in 2015.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) closed over 500 second-level schools on two days, one either side of the October mid-term, in an industrial dispute in pursuit of equal pay for members who have joined the profession since 2011.
The dispute is ongoing after members last month rejected a final deal that emerged from talks at the Teachers’ Conciliation Council in November, and the union is also in ongoing industrial conflict with the Department of Education on another pay issue and on junior cycle reform.
ASTI has no immediate plans for strikes or other work stoppages, although members could be balloted if the department makes teachers redundant due to the union being outside the Lansdowne Road agreement.
Other than an estimated 25,300 education workers to have been involved in one or more days of work stoppages in 2016, more than 4,000 employees at eight workplaces were responsible for the loss of over 17,000 days’ work.
Three of those disputes were in the transport and storage sectors, leading to the loss of 16,000 days by more than 3,500 staff.