Bus Éireann has deferred the implementation of new cost saving rosters for drivers for a fortnight following discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday.

They will now be implemented on 12 November, with more regard given to seniority in the allocation of duties. 

The new rosters were agreed in principle following a Labour Court recommendation earlier this year to resolve a dispute over pay and cost reductions which saw strike action at the company. 

They were due to be rolled out nationwide from Sunday 29 October. 

However, difficulties were already being experienced in trial rosters in the east of the country, in part due to an escalation in absenteeism to 14%, well above the norm of 3-4%.

Unions had claimed the new rosters were imposing undue hardship on drivers, who were facing shifts lasting over 12 hours, with inadequate rest and toilet breaks. 

This evening, Bus Éireann  confirmed that it has now agreed with the drivers' unions that the new rosters will be displayed by 29th October for 10 days to allow drivers to apply for their preference. 

Implementation will then take place two weeks later on 12 November.

Bus Éireann had argued that the new rosters and other cost reduction measures were essential to save the company from insolvency. 

Yesterday's Workplace Relations Commission document provides for seniority to be factored into the allocation of duties.

It also clarifies issues relating to part-time drivers, spare drivers, and the allowances and expenses for working away from a home base. 

Earlier at the Oireachtas Transport Committee, Bus Éireann chairman Aidan Murphy acknowledged that the company cannot immediately release all of the 120 drivers who have applied for redundancy, due to the high absenteeism rate resulting in difficulties in delivering services. 

He said he was still confident the new rosters will be implemented.

He denied that the company was intending to engage in a race to the bottom in pay and conditions for staff in a bid to compete with lower cost competitors. 

He also said there was no reason why they could not improve efficiency.