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'Counterproductive' - union dismayed at cash-strapped Bus Éireann's plans to cut overtime

The dire financial situation at the State-owned bus company is such that it could be declared insolvent within 18 months.

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THE UNION REPRESENTING Bus Éireann workers has decried leaked cost-cutting plans on behalf of the troubled State-owned company.

The Irish Times this morning reported that the company is planning to cut overtime in a bid to fight off financial armageddon.

Other measures planned include the doing-away with of annual leave carry-overs, a hiring freeze, and a ban on charter hire of non-company-owned buses. It’s understood that the drastic moves are being put in place in order to save €8 million in costs over the coming weeks.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has described the leaked plans as likely to be “counterproductive”, and has suggested that cutting overtime as suggested would simply deny the company the ability to operate all of its services.

When asked for comment on the plans, a Bus Éireann spokesperson did not address the mooted cuts directly but replied that “changes are urgently required to address Bus  Éireann’s adverse financial situation”.

This may result in alterations to the operation of some routes, but the National Transport Authority have advised that they will ensure local demands for public transport are met, and that ‘no rural communities will be left behind’.
We are making all efforts to ensure that no passengers are discommoded as we introduce vital cost savings and necessary efficiencies.

Union general secretary Dermot O’Leary in response said that the NBRU sees the leaking of a consultant report into the company’s finances last week, together with today’s statement, as being “geared towards conditioning staff into accepting cuts to terms and conditions… It would also lend credence to our view that the focus on cutting staff entitlements is being advanced in order to allow the Department of Transport to abdicate its responsibility towards a State-owned company”.

What is required here is an acceptance that any resolution to this crisis can only be achieved by all stakeholders engaging on all of the issues which have contributed to Bus Éireann’s current predicament, inclusive of Government policy.

“Turning the spotlight on staff is a sad reflection on the new management structure at the Company,” he added.

It is broadly accepted at present that Bus Éireann will become insolvent inside the next 18 months if its financial spiral is not arrested.

The leaked report from earlier this week, compiled by consultancy firm Grant Thornton, advised that the company’s Expressway inter-city services be cancelled in a bid to cut costs.

Regarding today’s story, O’Leary added “Cutting overtime will have a direct impact on the ability of Bus Éireann to operate all of its services and may end up being counterproductive in that it may result in the NTA imposing sanctions and withdrawing some of the PSO funding it is contractually obliged to provide in order to support vital bus services all over Ireland”.

Siptu has also come out to oppose any roster changes for Bus Éireann Expressway workers.

“Siptu members in the Expressway arm of Bus Éireann will not have their terms and conditions of employment sacrificed, so as to subsidise the abysmal failure of the State to provide the requisite investment,” said divisional organiser Greg Ennis.

“We are calling on the management of Bus Éireann to immediately release its proposed ‘plan’ for changes in the company to their workers’ trade unions rather than continue to drip feed it into the media.”

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