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Snippet Contents:

Today we learned that Bus Éireann's unilateral decision to cut costs, as well as seeking reductions in overtime, shifts in premium payments, longer working hours for office staff and reductions in annual leave, have resulted in the threat of students being unable to use public transport during an exam period. That is a very serious developing situation. Bus Éireann has outlined that it intends to target about €20 million worth of savings from 12 May, including €9 million from pay and conditions. As the Minister knows, this has resulted in SIPTU balloting over 900 of its members working in Bus Éireann. It now appears that strike action is very much on the cards. It is more of a probability than anything else.
We understand that Bus Éireann needs to find savings and on this side of the House we accept that. It is a given that as a result of increased fuel costs and lower passenger numbers which have resulted in a reduction of revenues for the company, the Minister is not in a position to support the CIE group as previous governments were. I understand that. The Labour Court has pointed out how this can be achieved. It is recognised that the company is in a difficult position.
The Labour Court has stated that the very viability of the transport operator is under threat if something is not done. However, the lack of agreement between management and staff has the potential seriously to disrupt thousands of travellers who rely on Bus Éireann's service every day. As industrial action is most likely to occur in the exam period for colleges and secondary schools in May, this is of particular concern to students and their parents who do not have access to private transport. If industrial action spreads to include school transport services, it is estimated that up to 114,000 children will be affected. That should bring into stark focus, both for the Minister and the Government, that action needs to be taken. Where do the Government and the Minister stand on this issue? Does the Government have a strategy to ensure that our public transport system will not let down those who cannot afford private transportation, particularly during the stressful exam period?