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Snippet Contents:

Everybody is shocked that Bus Éireann, with the apparent approval of the Minister, intends unilaterally to impose severe cuts in the pay and conditions of Bus Éireann workers from Sunday, 12 May. According to the latest figures, the company has carried out 36.5 million customer journeys. I am aware of Labour Court recommendation 20463, which recommended significant cuts for drivers, maintenance staff, inspectors and clerical executive workers. After five years of deep recession and major cost reductions in 2009, which impacted on pay and conditions for many drivers and other workers in Bus Éireann, the current threat is the last straw.
On modest core pay, the Labour Court recommended that the first two hours of overtime be cut from time and a half to time and a quarter. In addition, Sunday overtime is being cut from double time to time and a half, while public holidays are down to time and a quarter. These workers work unsocial hours and support the community when the bulk of the population is not working. Shift pay and annual leave are also being severely cut.
Those types of cuts, which are replicated for drivers and other grades, will be devastating for workers and their families. One driver with children at college told me yesterday that he will lose at least €3,000 a year. With property tax, rising health insurance, mortgages and other costs, workers feel they just cannot take any more. It is therefore understandable that the NBRU and SIPTU are balloting staff on whether to take action from the end of next week.
Many efficiencies have been brought about in the CIE companies. For example, we had the Deloitte review in 2008-09, along with retrenchments. In recent years, however the Minister has consistently cut the public service obligation subvention. According to the company's annual report for 2011, it looks like the subvention is down to about 15%. This is the lowest subvention of any major national public bus company in Europe.
The next few weeks constitute a particularly bad time for any kind of industrial action, given that the school bus service may well be involved, with 114,000 school-children facing exams. The Minister should take action. We need an alternative strategy which must involve further national support for the company and an end to attempts to scapegoat Bus Éireann workers for the current difficulties. We also need a much more dynamic and innovative management team, which is a prerequisite for change.