Latest: Some buses back this evening as drivers agree to return to work

Update 6pm: The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD, has commented on the Labour Court recommendation in relation to the Bus Éireann dispute.

“On behalf of the travelling public, I am pleased that Bus Éireann services are returning to normal and people can now plan their travel arrangements this Easter weekend. I have no doubt the return to services will be particularly welcome in rural Ireland and in our regional cities which have been severely impacted by the disruptions of recent weeks," he said.

He also said that he wishes to restate his offer to set up a forum for all stakeholders once the industrial dispute is concluded.

"I will establish a Public Transport Stakeholder Dialogue in order to advance the commitment within the Programme for a Partnership Government to instigate a review of public transport policy. In the coming weeks I will announce further details," he said.

"Ahead of that formal process, as soon as this dispute is fully resolved, I am happy to meet with trade unions to discuss issues of concern and look forward to their participation in the Public Transport Stakeholder Dialogue."

Unite Regional Officer Willie Quigley said that the focus now must be on charting what he termed a ‘sustainable route forward’ for Ireland’s public transport system, including Bus Éireann.

“The scope of this recommendation, and the gravity of the situation which it addresses, are in my experience unprecedented, and both management and government must take responsibility for the financial crisis which has brought the company to this point.

“The manner in which Bus Éireann management has handled the current crisis, including their failure back in December to engage at the Labour Court, has been extremely disappointing and has been compounded by the apparent influence exerted by outside bodies such as the NTA. If Bus Éireann is to be put back on a sound footing, both the worker and the travelling public must have confidence in those directing it, and in the direction they’re taking”, Mr Quigley warned.

Update 4.48pm: Some buses will be back this evening as drivers have agreed to return to work.

Bus Éireann has released a statement today which says their key focus is now on the resumption of normal services as soon as possible.

Some services are expected to resume in regional cities this evening, but the vast majority of services will not be operational until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

Details of routes and services will be updated on the Bus Éireann website and on their social media channels.

The statement said: "We again apologise for the inconvenience caused to customers over the last three weeks of strike action.

"We would like to thank the WRC and Labour Court for their assistance in this matter, over the last number of weeks."

Update 4.35pm: Bus Éireann has told the Labour Court that it is currently insolvent.

RTÉ reports that Labour Court chairman Kevin Foley described the statement as being of the "gravest significance" for employees of Bus Éireann.

Mr Foley recommends measures including pay cuts, voluntary redundancies, work practice reforms and depot closures in order to restore financial viability.

Foley says that a minimum of 120 drivers should take redundancy over the next 12 months and advocates a composite rate of pay for drivers that will compensate for "all and any duties associated with the drivers' role".

    He says that rate should be:

  • Year one of service: €17.37
  • Year two of service: €18.28
  • Year three of service: €19.20
  • Year four of service: €20.11

Back office roles will be centralised resulting in 48 redundancies and the senior executive team of 116 will lose 22 posts, as well as working an extra three hours a week. Most will face an increment freeze for 18 months.

Executives earning over €60,000 will see a pay cut of 10% and forfeit four leave days.

The number of inspectors will fall from 118 to 93 and maintenance staff will be expected to work more flexibly.

Update 3pm: Bus Éireann workers will return to work while their union embark on a further "consultative phase" with members across around the fundamental issues contained in today’s Labour Court recommendation.

The news comes as SIPTU members in Dublin Bus also voted in favour of industrial action in support of their Bus Eireann colleagues.

Most are bus drivers who voted in favour of the action by 67% to 33%.

Reacting to the Labour Court recommendations NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said: "It is quite obvious, just from a cursory glance, that our contention that major cultural change is imminent has been borne out by this recommendation.

"We will now move immediately into a consultative phase with our members across Bus Éireann in order that they will be fully informed in advance of casting their ballot on the fundamental issues contained in the recommendation."

Mr O’Leary went on: "Our members will now return to work after 21 days on strike, they have shown tremendous dignity throughout what has been an extremely difficult dispute, for that they are to be commended, we would also like to take this opportunity to thank members of the travelling public for their massive support and understanding through what has been a difficult time for them in having to make alternative travel arrangements for their daily commute."

Update 2.25pm: Bus Éireann has said it could be lunchtime tomorrow before all buses are back on the roads.

The Labour Court is expected to issue a recommendation on the dispute around now - with unions saying they’ll lift the pickets as soon as that happens.

Management said last night that they were disappointed the strike still hadn’t been postponed.

Tánaiste and justice minister Frances Fitzgerald says she hopes this dispute will come to an end.

"We want to see a resolution and I’m encouraging all parties to be part of that.

Dermot O’Leary

Update 9am: Unions representing Bus Eireann drivers say they do not know if they will be willing to accept the Labour Court recommendation to end the strike.

It is due around lunchtime but the proposal is not legally binding.

The dispute over cost cutting plans at the transport firm has been ongoing now for 21 days, leaving commuters without rural services.

But the NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary says buses could be back on the roads soon: “We’ve committed to the Labour Court that as soon as the recommendation is written, then the pickets will be lifted.

“From there, people will be returning to work.

“The recommendation is not written yet or is being written as we speak, so it would be very difficult for the Labour Court to ask us to do something in advance of that.”

Earlier: The Labour Court will today issue a recommendation that could end a dispute which has cost a cash-strapped Bus Éireann €500,000 per day in lost fares and left passengers without services for 21 days, writes Stephen Rogers.

The court’s recommendation will likely see services resume tomorrow morning — but if unions reject its contents, the strikes could resume within a matter of days or weeks.

Before talks broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission on Tuesday morning, unions had offered €18m in savings along with an 11% increase in efficiencies.

According to the company, while progress was made and agreement reached to eliminate many work practice inefficiencies at the company, unions rejected an offer it made that would help to “deliver financial viability”.

Among the issues over which Bus Éireann management and unions remained at odds — and which will have to be included in the Labour Court recommendation — was the consolidated wage rate, incorporating premium and overtime payments into core pay. The company had offered €19.20, but unions were looking for between €22 and €23.

There is also an expectation that anything up to 300 staff, or one in eight of the company’s workforce, will leave the company in time as a result of any agreement that may emerge.

While normally a Labour Court process is quicker, it is believed the sides were delayed in yesterday’s session because, along with drivers, there were a number of other grades represented by five trade unions and the court needed clarity on each.

Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, said it still believes external actors — the Government and National Transport Authority — had a negative and undue influence on Bus Éireann management’s ability to negotiate an agreement.

Meanwhile, Siptu will today confirm the result of a ballot of its members at Dublin Bus in relation to taking strike action in support of Bus Éireann workers.

Yesterday, Brid Smith, a People Before Profit TD and former bus driver, tweeted: “delighted to hear that dublin bus drivers voted by 78% to support bus eireann. might wake up the minister and govt..Up the workers !”

In a statement later, the union’s organiser, John Murphy, said: “Union representatives are currently counting the ballot of all grades of Siptu members in Dublin Bus. This count will not be completed until tomorrow morning. Following the completion of the ballot, an official and correct result will then be released by the union.”

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