Relief for commuters as all-out strike at Bus Eireann off... for now
AN all-out strike at Bus Eireann that would have affected 110,000 passengers a day has been avoided.
Bus Eireann yesterday pledged that "funds will be available" for a voluntary severance scheme and it will negotiate with unions about a pay rise.
But the company said Minister for Transport Shane Ross has not opened his chequebook to bail out the commercial semi-state firm that faces the threat of insolvency in two months.
A spokesperson said the funding for any future scheme will be provided by the CIE Group.
Unions suspended industrial action and management agreed to hold off on imposing cuts from Monday after accepting an invitation to talks at the Workplace Relations Commission on the financial crisis facing the company.
The National Bus and Railworkers' Union had warned that the public faced the "mother of all transport disputes" and there was the prospect of unofficial action infecting all the CIE companies.
In correspondence between the Workplace Relations Commission, unions and the company yesterday, seen by the Herald, the company said it was "conscious of the significant long-term damage that could be caused by a strike".
It said that "streamlining" and improved efficiencies would allow for a reduction in staff numbers.
The company said voluntary severance could begin to be rolled out over the next 12 to 18 months and redeployment would also be used.
"Bus Eireann is in imminent risk of insolvency and steps must be taken immediately to address this financial crisis," Stratis senior partner Brendan McCarthy said.
"Non engagement by the parties on a survival plan will only hasten insolvency and reckless trading."
Mr McCarthy said the company is willing to negotiate on a pay increase although it must be "justified in its own right".
He said a solid commitment from unions to improved efficiency, to include the application of all existing negotiated agreements, "will overcome the immediate threat of insolvency".
Bus Eireann said its decision to close three routes and cut services on two others will only be deferred while talks are under way.
In a letter to the company yesterday, following a meeting in Clonmel on route closures, the NBRU demanded that the company halt the closure of the X7 route ahead of talks.
Tensions between unions and the company mounted earlier in the day as it was revealed that five workers on temporary contracts have been informed they will lose their jobs when the X7 between Waterford and Clonmel is axed on March 12.
Another nine drivers based in Clonmel will have to transfer to Waterford.
Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone claimed the company had rowed back on cuts it planned to impose. He said the union will play its part in trying to avert a national public transport dispute.
"But we rely on the management of Bus Eireann making genuine efforts to reach a resolution," he added.
Bus Eireann said it accepted the invitation to "facilitate meaningful discussions".