Bus Eireann 'crisis' will not be resolved on backs of workers, says union

A rescue of Bus Eireann from potential financial collapse will not be found on workers' backs, union chiefs have said.

The warning was issued after a consultants' report claimed that closing down the company's loss-making Expressway intercity business with the loss of more than 500 jobs may be the only way to save other services.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), called on transport minister Shane Ross and the National Transport Authority to play a central role in any talks on a survival plan.

"The resolution to this crisis will not be found on the backs of workers," he said.

"The government cannot think that they will act Pontius Pilate-like and have clean hands on this one."

Mr O'Leary said the market for buses operating on motorways to Dublin was saturated with a 128% increase in capacity to Cork, 115% to Limerick and 55% to Waterford.

"The competition is now damaging Bus Eireann's ability to sustain itself and run its services," he said.

"There are indications that the company is going to call us in.

"If what they have to say to us revolves around what was in the report then the conversation will be very short."

The Grant Thornton report repeated previous warnings that Bus Eireann could go bust within two years if something was not done to stem the current losses.

The company, which last year suggested separating Expressway from the rest of the business, suffered a €5.6m loss in 2015 and is forecasting similar numbers for 2016.

The consultants also reportedly warned that severance packages following a shut down of Expressway could cost anywhere from €36m to €85m.

Union sources suggested they would be at the lower end of the scale if the closure was ordered.

The NBRU has run a nationwide awareness campaign over recent weeks to inform bus users in the regions about the potential impact of continued losses at Bus Eireann and the closure of Expressway and reduction in other bus services.

Mr O'Leary said that unless there was a political willingness to address the fundamental issues at the heart of the financial crisis then the bus services would be no more.

"The resolution will not be exclusively found within the industrial relations arena, offering heads on a platter will not make the crisis disappear, it is high time for those politicians who purport to represent rural Ireland to step up to the mark and work towards protecting this vital piece of irreplaceable infrastructure," he said.

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