Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has urged the Irish Government to support Bus Éireann as a “vital strategic asset”, while promising to back ongoing industrial action by bus drivers with a 40million euro strike fund.
Last month the bus company announced it was scrapping its Dublin to Derry route at the end of May as part of a raft of cost-cuting measures.
This, alongside 55 further cuts, proposed by the company in February, prompted an indefinite strike, which entered its fifth day on Tuesday.
Today Mr. McCluskey spoke out in support of the trade union’s members, stating: “Public transport workers are at the frontline in the battle against creeping privatisation, and attempts to drive down terms and conditions.
“The issues underlying the current dispute in Bus Éireann – including the scandalously low level of public subvention to a crucial public service – have implications for the future of Ireland’s public transport system as a whole.
“As our members spend another day on the picket lines, they need to know that they have the full support of 1.4 million Unite members across Britain and Ireland.
“Over a number of years, Unite has amassed a 40 million euro strike fund to support members during industrial disputes. I am sending a clear message to employers: when our members are in dispute, they not only have right on their side – they also have financial might on their side.”
The Unite leader said striking bus drivers were fighting for rural and provincial communities’ rights to a comprehensive transport service.
He said: “I hope that the Irish Government will see sense, start treating Bus Éireann as the vital strategic asset it is, and invest in its services accordingly. But our members will not be bullied to the table by threats.
“They are fighting not only for their own futures, but for the right of communities throughout Ireland to a decent public transport system that provides a quality service and quality jobs. They have my full support in that battle – and the backing of a 40 million euro strike fund.”
He made the comments after Bus Éireann reiterated its warning that a savings plan is needed to prevent the company becoming insolvent.
Management at the firm said it presented the Board of Bus Éireann with a plan to secure the future of the company on Monday.
The company said: “A key component of the plan, however, is the achievement of cost efficiencies with employees to eliminate grossly inefficient work practices, which have been acknowledged by the unions during discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission.
“The Board remain gravely concerned that losses continue to accelerate at Bus Éireann, exacerbated now by four days of strike action.
“Regrettably, today the Board could not sign off accounts for 2016, or pass a budget for 2017 in the absence of agreement with staff. This is a very serious matter as the Board must now formally advise CIÉ that this governance requirement will not be met.
“Without a plan which encompasses the necessary work practice changes to generate savings, it will not be possible to fund a voluntary redundancy scheme and faced with that scenario, the Board of Directors will have no option but to consider other measures to prevent the business becoming insolvent.
“The Board requests all employees to urgently engage with management through their representatives to agree a survival plan to prevent insolvency and provide a viable future for Bus Éireann.”