BUS ÉIREANN STAFF could strike on Sunday to mark their opposition to cuts due to be imposed by the company.
Yesterday, Bus Éireann warned that its controversial cost-cutting plan needed to be implemented as soon as possible or it is likely it will end up breaking the law.
However, unions at the company have rejected the proposed changes to pay and conditions. Today, the National Bus and Rail Union secretary general Michael Faherty said on RTÉ radio show Morning Ireland that the union has had a mandate for industrial action since January, and it will ballot this week on whether to reject the proposals, which were set out in a Labour Court recommendation.
While he did not want to pre-empt the outcome, he said that on the basis of what they are hearing from members, it is likely they will be rejected. “If that is the case it will be up to the company to tell us what they are going to do,” he said.
If the company does go ahead and implement the changes, Faherty said the NBRU members “will not be operating under those conditions” which would mean an all-out strike from Sunday.
Faherty said that there are elements of the Labour Court recommendation that “are unacceptable” and that “somebody someday will have to sit down” and discuss changes to it.
The members are willing to undertake industrial action as they feel “so strong about this”, said Faherty.
Andrew McLindon of Bus Éireann said that since June 2012 the company has been engaged in talks with trade unions about the difficult financial situation the company is in.
It needs the savings from payroll terms and conditions to protect its viability and to protect 2500 jobs. It lost €6 million last year.
The company said it may be required to call an Extraordinary General Meeting to deal with the situation if it isn’t allowed to cut pay.
The Labour Court recommended a range of measures to save around €5 million from the payroll. Among the recommended changes are:
- An increase in the working week for clerical and executive staff from 36 hours to 39 hours
- Reduction in premium payments (such as Sunday payments) to be x1.5 payments rather than double payments
- Reduction in annual leave entitlement by 3 days for the next three years
- Reduction in allowances and expense payments by 20 per cent
The intention of the company is to implement the recommendations, but if they are introduced this Sunday, it is likely that trade unions could undertake industrial action.
If there is industrial action, that is “entirely a matter for unions”, said McLindon, who described it as “completely counterproductive”. He also said that legally, unions have to give 7 days notice of industrial action, so “any industrial action on Sunday would be unofficial”.
He said that if they do intend to undertake industrial action, unions need to outline what that will be for the sake of the Bus Éireann customers, so that they can be informed by the company.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore spoke about the issue during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, saying that the viability of Bus Éireann is at risk if it can’t make the cuts.
He said that the company remains open to engaging with the unions, and he very much hopes the management and unions use the period between now and Sunday to engage in further dialogue which will ensure the necessary savings are introduced.
He added that this government “is committed” to the public transport service and that is why it wants to keep Bus Éireann in existence.