BUS services in Limerick could grind to a halt after more than nine in ten drivers voted in favour of strike action.
National Bus and Rail Workers Union general secretary Michael Faherty warned a strike could begin nationwide as soon as Sunday, the date on which Bus Eireann has resolved to put a cost-cutting plan into effect.
But management said that it had not been served with the statutory seven days notice and unions had in addition signed up to an agreement that 30 days notice had to be given in the event of a strike.
Dermot Healy, who represents the NBRU in Limerick, could not confirm whether drivers in Limerick intended to down tools on Sunday but said union members “may not operate if the company persists with its plans”.
Bus Éireann has stressed that if unions do not agree to its cost-cutting plan, the company could be “facing potential annual losses of €16m”.
It has proposed cuts in shift and rota payments, Sunday and bank holiday premiums and a reduction in overtime from 1.5 to 1.25 times basic salary.
While Mr Healy declined to go into pay scales, he said the plan as proposed would reduce the take home pay of “workers getting the average industrial wage by €100 to €120 per week”.
“We have had no wage increase since 2007 but taxes and prices have continued to go up. They just can’t afford to lose the money,” he said.
The plan which Bus Eireann is determined to implement on January 13 had been communicated by letter to individual staff without union agreement, he said. Around two thirds of the 145 bus drivers in the Limerick depot are NBRU members and over 90% have voted in favour of a strike.
Drivers who are members of SIPTU are also expected to endorse industrial action when the result of a ballot is announced this Wednesday.
Any strike in Limerick would affect city bus services, local and inter-city routes, Mr Healy said.
He acknowledged that people on low incomes were the most reliant on the service but added “nobody likes to go on strike and nobody would be affected by a strike moreso than the people engaged in it - in this case the drivers”.