Reduced overtime rates, expenses and leave entitlement are among the changes Bus Éireann is introducing to staff terms and conditions from the new year.

The company says it is introducing the measures following the decision by trade unions to reject a request from the company to go to the Labour Court to discuss its business recovery plan.

Bus Éireann believes that failure to agree to a plan will leave the company facing potential annual losses of €16m.

Among the changes to employee terms and conditions are a reduction of overtime rates from time and a half to time and a quarter, an increase in the working week for clerical and executive staff from 36 hours to 39 hours, a reduction in shift, premium and rota payments, a reduction in annual leave entitlement by 3 days for three years from 2013 and a reduction by one third in a range of allowance and expense payments.

The changes will take effect from January 13, 2013.

The company says its has informed staff and unions of its intentions.

Unions express surprise

The National Bus & Rail Union says the company plans have come as a "huge surprise."

The union, which represents 1200 workers or around 50% of the workforce, said it had been in lengthy discussions with management about 16 issues in a cost recovery plan.

It said the company referred half of those issues to the Labour Relations Commission, where the sides didn't make much progress.

After that the union says the company wanted to refer all of the issues to the Labour Court. The unions says it wasn't in a position to go to the Labour Court because all of the issues had not been discussed at local level.

Michael Faherty, Secretary General of the NBRU, said he was expecting a call for further discussions at the LRC and then this plan for changes to terms and conditions, to come into effect from January 13th, arrived on his desk this morning.

The NBRU says it will now have to ballot its members to see if they want the union to prevent the company from implementing the plan without agreement.