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Bus Éireann

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Snippet Contents:

In common with the other Members present, I am sure the Minister is acutely aware that the financial circumstances facing Bus Éireann at present are dire. It has been acknowledged by both the Labour Court and the trade unions' own financial assessors that the company is in a highly precarious position and its very viability and future are under imminent threat. Most people would accept that the company must identify savings fast. It has accumulated losses of more than €27 million over the past five years and this simply is not sustainable. The prospect of industrial action would have serious implications for the company's viability, for those workers and their jobs and for those who rely on the services. As other speakers have noted, the timing is appalling, as 114,000 students are preparing for exams and this may be their only mode of transport to sit those exams. In addition, an entire community of elderly and retired people who live in remote parts of the country rely heavily on these services. Moreover, initial data appear to show the Minister's initiative, The Gathering, will be a huge success. In this context, it is important that the service be fully operational during the months ahead in order that the undoubted benefits that will accrue will be shared evenly across the entire country and not simply in urban areas. As the Minister is aware, many of Ireland's cultural treasures are located in rural areas and it is important that visitors have access to them. As Bus Éireann will play a highly important role in ensuring access to remote parts of the country, the timing is appalling.
I have a couple of questions. First, how long has this process of engagement between the unions, the management and the Labour Relations Commission been under way? Does the Minister expect them to re-engage with one another in the short term? As for the workers who have raised this issue, is it not the case that, unlike other public servants, their core pay has been protected in the past and will be protected in the future? The Minister should address these basic issues.