Bus Éireann: Unite submission to Transport Committee highlights low PSO subvention, inadequate regulatory oversight and ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ tactics

unite-white-out-of-redUnion says Expressway cannot be compared to commercial operation since it subsidises social transfers, PSO routes

February 15th: Trade union Unite, which represents craft workers in Bus Éireann, today appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. In its submission to the Committee, the union highlighted the low PSO subvention to Bus Éireann, as well as inadequate regulatory oversight and what it termed ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ management practices.

The Committee hearing occurred as the WRC invited unions to talks in a last-ditch attempt to avert strike action scheduled for Monday February 20th.

Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Willie Quigley said:

“We were grateful to the Oireachtas Committee for giving us an opportunity to reiterate some of the issues underlying this dispute. Unite also appreciates the Committee’s decision to write to the Minister for Transport, the Taoiseach and the acting CEO of Bus Éireann asking that they meet with the unions and withdraw the cost-cutting proposals to allow for negotiations without preconditions.

“Bus Éireann’s proposed unilateral imposition of cuts must be seen in the context of a low level of public subventions: the estimated subvention to Bus Éireann in 2015 was just 10 per cent of total revenue, compared to 50 per cent or more in comparable jurisdictions. And the subvention has been cut by around €12 million in real terms, or 22 per cent.

“At the same time, Expressway’s commercial mandate has been undermined by Government policy, inadequate oversight and questionable management practice. It subsidises social transfers by providing access to Free Travel customers and provides public service routes which should be subsidised by a PSO payment, while its profits have been raided by the NTA.

“And yet Bus Éireann’s only response to these issues is to further depress workers’ living standards – again. Between 2009 and 1015, payroll expenditure fell by over €15 million, and now they propose the unilateral imposition of another cuts package. Before any cuts to payroll can be discussed, there needs to be a thorough examination of non-payroll expenditure to see where savings can be made.

“However, the problem facing Bus Éireann is not expenditure – which has fallen – but rather falling revenue.

“The issue of falling revenue will only be resolved through a genuine stakeholder approach which views workers as part of the solution rather than the problem. But that will not be achieved while workers continue being subjected to ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ tactics where industrial relations are conducted through media leaks and threats, while the Minister – the principle shareholder – declines to assume any responsibility for the growing crisis facing Bus Éireann.

“As of this evening, Unite’s members are preparing for indefinite industrial action starting at 0.01 hours on Monday February 20th”, Mr Quigley concluded.

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