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Labour Court asked to resolve impasse between unions and Bus Eireann

Unions and Bus Eireann bosses are heading to the Labour Court after marathon talks to end the weeks-long strike at the carrier collapsed.

Both sides in the dispute over pay and conditions have failed to reach an agreement after five days of intensive negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The unions have asked the Labour Court to rule on a number of outstanding issues and the company has agreed to attend.

Bus Eireann said it asked for an early hearing "given the urgency of the financial situation".

"While progress was made and agreement was reached to eliminate many work practice inefficiencies, an offer made by the company that would help to deliver financial viability was rejected by the trade unions representing the driver grade," a Bus Eireann spokeswoman said.

"We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of the ongoing industrial action."

Willie Noone of Siptu, one of the trade unions representing striking workers, said the gulf that remains between workers and bosses was too much to bridge by negotiators at the WRC.

"It is disappointing that after five days of intense negotiations and, following the identification of 18 million euro in savings, management did not deem that sufficient to end the impasse," he said.

"It appears that management is controlled by consultants and others outside the process who are content to see 2,600 good jobs lost in order to advance the privatisation of public transport."

About 2,600 Bus Eireann workers walked out on Friday March 24.

Bus Eireann says it lost up to nine million euro last year and losses are continuing to accelerate and, exacerbated by strike action to date, threaten to collapse the company this year, its 30th anniversary.

A voluntary redundancy scheme for 300 workers was among issues being tabled in talks.

The National Bus and Rail Union said some workers have been threatened with dismissal since the strike started and others have had their pay cut since January 16.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, claimed "other agencies" not party to the WRC talks "have been applying undue influence on the proceedings, restricting the ability of Bus Eireann to actually reach agreement".

"It would seem that there are forces at play here which would prefer to see the demise of Bus Eireann, rather than concentrate on securing its future for the benefit of staff and commuters alike," he said.

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