SIPTU has called for immediate action by elected representatives to support the public bus network and its staff following media reports today (Wednesday, 11th January) that management has drawn up a plan for massive cutbacks in Bus Éireann. SIPTU Sector Organiser, Willie Noone, said: “Following widespread media reports about the contents of a report given by consultants Grant Thornton to Bus Éireann it would seem that management has now drawn up a plan that places the very existence of the company, the services it delivers and staff jobs in doubt.“It is disgraceful that the contents of this report and resultant plan, which is causing great concern to employees, are being widely commented on while the trade unions who represent these workers have not been presented with any of their details.”He added: “The financial difficulties experienced by the company due to its underfunding by the State are well-known. The reality is that there has been a strategy of creating a financial crisis at the company with the objective of manufacturing a case for the dismantling of Bus Éireann, driving down workers’ conditions and reducing services.“SIPTU members have also publicly denounced the practice of granting private operators licences for profitable routes they want to operate while Bus Éireann was left to operate services that were essential for the public, particularly in rural areas.”He added: “Our members find it abhorrent that details of the proposed plan, that have obviously been leaked to the media by management, include figures such as €85 million for redundancy costs and pay-offs to senior employees of over €500,000 while also including the possibility of closing ten bus depots and cutting over 500 jobs.“Media reports state that the Grant Thornton report includes comments that ‘there are limited strategic reasons for the State to own a commercial business’ and that ‘closing Expressway could be most viable option’. It also calls for more money to be sought from the Department of Social Protection for the passengers entitled to free travel. Ironically, if successful the money will go to private operators who have long refused to operate the free travel scheme. Such statements on State policy issues should not be the remit of a private sector consultancy company.“It is ludicrous that any credence would be given to proposals that involve using public funds to cut services, eradicate jobs, drive down safety and service standards and empower private businesses to attain monopoly status in a sector of our transport services.“Our members in Bus Éireann will fight these outrageous proposals in order to protect jobs and public bus services. In this struggle, they are expecting the full support of elected representatives whose constituents depend on the services our members provide. Bus Eireann workers are also demanding that the company’s management start talking to their employees rather than just the media.”