Poll: Should the government let Bus Éireann fail?

The state-owned company re-entered talks with unions today.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

UNIONS AND BUS Éireann representatives attended talks today at the Workplace Relations Commission to try and settle a dispute over cost-cutting measures.

Late last Friday, the NBRU and Siptu called off widespread industrial action that was due to commence this week to allow the talks to go ahead.

The unions have fallen out with the national bus operator over cost-cutting measures that include reduced wages and the transferring of staff to alternative routes.

Bus Éireann has said that it will be made insolvent by the middle of this year if it doesn’t cut back its spending bill.

The company made an estimated operating loss of €9.4 million last year and said that its losses so far this year have already surpassed €1.5 million.

‘Unable to compete’

Writing in the Sunday Business Post a fortnight ago, economist Stephen Kinsella suggested that the government should let Bus Éireann fail.

He said that the company was unable to compete against private operators on inter-city routes and was losing money “hand over fist”. You can read his column in full on his personal website here.

An editorial in the newspaper this week defended Kinsella’s arguments after he came under fire on social media.

It used Bord Gáis Energy as an example of how a utility company can survive without state intervention: the firm’s new British-based parent reported a pre-tax profit of £46 million in 2016, up 53% on the figure for 2015.

However, the paper warned that “for every Bord Gáis, there’s a Telecom Éireann … which was passed through a variety of private owners at the cost of necessary investment in a vital piece of national infrastructure”.

With that in mind, we’re asking Fora readers this week: Should the government let Bus Éireann fail?