Belfast Telegraph

Minister pleads again with Bus Eireann workers and management to avoid strike

Transport minister Shane Ross has pleaded for a second time in as many days for Bus Eireann workers and management to avoid a strike.

An all-out, indefinite stoppage is being threatened for February 20 unless a planned pay cut is lifted.

As union chiefs met for strategy talks on their campaign against the cuts, they warned the strike would hit all aspects of the company's services, except the school run, and could spread to other transport.

Mr Ross said he was disappointed by the threat.

"A strike will be very damaging to the travelling public, the workforce, rural communities and the company itself," he said.

"Through the Workplace Relations Commission or Labour Court, the state can assist both the staff and management in discussions to resolve this dispute."

Mr Ross has ruled out becoming involved directly in any attempt to resolve the financial crisis at Bus Eireann and on Wednesday pleaded with both sides to begin talks with a blank sheet of paper.

The company is facing going bust.

Ray Hernan, Bus Eireann acting chief executive, has said the company lost between eight and nine million euro last year, and had only seven million euro left in reserves.

Pay cuts of an effective 30% are being proposed while Mr Hernan has also raised concerns about a seven million euro compensation bill and indicated that staffing costs other than basic pay, such as overtime and rota allowances and lunch expenses would come under the axe in a root and branch cost-cutting review expected in March.

He has also threatened to tackle absenteeism in the company, which is double the national average.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), Siptu, Unite and the Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) have about 2,600 members in Bus Eireann.

Unite regional officer Willie Quigley accused the minister and Bus Eireann management of holding communities and unions to ransom.

He said they had refused to publish all relevant information over the crisis in the company and to withdraw threatened cuts.

"The group of unions had no option to respond to this unprecedented attack on semi-state workers by announcing an all-out strike," he said.

It is planned to start at one minute past midnight on February 20.

Mr Quigley added: "In taking this action, our concern is as much for communities and the travelling public as for our members, and our meeting today decided that school buses will not be affected by the strike."

The Unite representative said it was not too late for the minister to step in and order the Bus Eireann management to lift the pay cut threat.


From Belfast Telegraph