To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the current situation in Bus Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Anthony Lawlor.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th May, 2013. Ref No: 22768/13
Answered by the Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport Alan Kelly
I propose to take Question Nos. 8,18, 27 and 87 together. These relate to the industrial relations dispute at Bus Eireann.
Deputies will be aware that the company and trade unions are in talks at the Labour Relations Commission. This follows on from last February’s Labour Court recommendation to address the company’s very difficult financial position. It has incurred accumulated losses of €27m in the last five years, a position which is unsustainable and places the viability of the company at risk.
The Labour Court recommendation on changes to terms and conditions would deliver annual savings of about €4.8m in a full year. Without the necessary savings from changes to terms and conditions and on-going inter-city service changes, Bus Éireann is facing annual losses of more than €11m, which are simply not sustainable.
It is important to emphasise that these issues had been through the full industrial relations machinery of the State, culminating in a Labour Court recommendation which recognised that the savings had to be made in order to protect the continued employment of the staff. According to the Labour Court and the trade unions’ own independent financial assessors, Bus Éireann is in a precarious financial situation with the very viability of the company under threat. Under the company’s business recovery plan and the Labour Court recommendation, there would be no reductions to core pay or employment levels. This is an extremely difficult situation for both sides. I aknowledge this and if there was an easy solution, I would say so.
I am sure that all Deputies would share my hope that the current negotiations at the LRC will result in an agreement that will deliver the level of savings that was identified as necessary by the Labour Court. The future of the company needs to be secured, for the public who depend on its services and for the benefit of its employees. Bus Éireann runs commercial Expressway Services which are currently loss making and legally the State cannot support these services. The viability of these services can only be secured if these savings are now achieved.