Absenteeism surges at Bus Éireann amid row over ‘Dickensian’ rosters

Bus company says disciplinary action will be taken ‘up to and including dismissal’

File photograph: Aidan Crawley

File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

A surge in absenteeism by drivers is the single most significant factor that has resulted in a spate of cancellation of services in recent days, Bus Éireann has said

The State-owned transport company said it was now discussing “this serious situation” with drivers who repeatedly reported ill for work as well as trade unions.

It said “disciplinary action has, can, or will be taken - depending on the situation - up to and including dismissal”.

Bus Éireann said the level of absenteeism had doubled in the last year, leading to staff shortages .It said it had to cancel 16 services on its eastern corridor on Monday and 7 on Tuesday --mainly affecting Dublin - Meath and Dublin - Kildare routes.

Drivers are unhappy with revised roster arrangements which the company has introduced on foot of a Labour Court recommendation which ended a three-week strike earlier this year.

However the trade union Siptu argued that anger at new rosters was not linked to increased absenteeism.

Last Friday the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned of further potential industrial action at Bus Éireann next month.

In a letter to the company last week the NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary described temporary rosters put in place for drivers at the Broadstone depot in Dublin as “shoddy”, “illegal” and “Dickensian”.

He said there was an immediate requirement for the company to engage with trade unions on all aspects of rostering or there would be a “major flashpoint/standoff” on October 29th.

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the attempt by the management of Bus Éireann to blame drivers for the poor service being provided to the travelling public in the east of the country was “deplorable”.

“Our members made the company aware prior to the schedule changes that it announced recently that they could not be operated as advertised. Management was made aware that all the necessary drivers had not been route trained.It knew that certain journeys could not be done in the times allocated and that rosters showing people working through the night on shifts of nearly 13-hours duration were not workable. “

“The issue of giving short breaks to drivers in remote locations, which did not allow drivers the chance to either avail of a toilet break or indeed take a rest period in line with legal requirements, had also been highlighted. Management must have known that drivers would have to abide by driving regulations and prior to imposing these new schedules were certainly aware of absenteeism rates.”

Separately unions maintained that talks on a pay claim by staff at Iarnród Éireann scheduled to take place on Wednesday could represent the final opportunity to make progress before they were forced to consider industrial action.

Siptu transport divisional organiser Greg Ennis said his members did not want to see a shutdown of the rail network,inlcuding DART services but would “use all the leverage at their disposal in their pursuit of a legitimate pay claim which follows almost ten-years of a pay freeze”.

Train staff are seeking pay rises of about 3.75 per cent, similar to those secured by workers inDublin Bus and Luas following strikes last year.